Labour claims levelling up fund ‘in chaos’ because of payment delays and allegations of ‘favouritism’ – UK politics live | Politics

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Labour claims levelling up fund ‘in chaos’ because of payment delays and allegations of ‘favouritism’

Good morning. Rishi Sunak has today announced a spending splurge – £2.1bn for more than 100 community projects. It is the second round of awards from the government’s levelling up fund.

In theory, spending announcements are meant to be good news stories for governments. But initiatives like this always trigger complaints about who has been left out, as my colleague Pippa Crerar reports in her overnight story.

There are various claims around this morning about who is gaining most. I’ll cover them in more detail shortly. At this point there does not seem to be consensus, partly because it depends whether you just look at spending totals per region, or whether you look at spending totals per head, and partly because it depends whether you just look at this set up levelling up funding awards, or whether you include the first round awards too.

But one point is obvious from the list; if you thought the levelling up initiative announced by Boris Johnson when he was prime minister was going to be about channelling money into poor communities mostly in the north of England, you’ll be disappointed. The spending is much more evenly spread.

The press release about the latest awards from the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities is here. There is a full list of the successful bids here. And the government has created a website which you can use to identify levelling up projects going ahead near where you live.

Labour says the money being distributed does not compensate for the cuts imposed during the Tory austerity year and it says the system is “in chaos” because many places promised levelling up funds in the first round of awards have not yet received anything. Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling up secretary, basis this claim on research published in the Financial Times at the end of last year saying just 5% of the total £4.8bn had been spent.

She said:

The levelling up fund is in chaos, beset by delays and allegations of favouritism. 15 months after the first round of allocations, just 5% of the money has made it to the communities who were promised it. And despite today’s announcement, communities across the country are still paying a Tory premium for the last 13 years.

It takes an extraordinary arrogance to expect us to be grateful for a partial refund on the money they have stripped out of our communities, which has decimated vital local services like childcare, buses and social care.

It is time to end this Hunger Games-style contest where communities are pitted against one another and Whitehall ministers pick winners and losers. That’s why Labour has set out plans for the biggest ever transfer of power out of Westminster, so local leaders can harness the skills and assets in their area to drive growth, and all people in all parts of Britain are given the backing to make a contribution.

Here is the agenda for the day.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

12pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, takes questions in the Scottish parliament.

12.30pm: Rishi Sunak gives a short speech on levelling up, and takes questions from journalists, at an event in the north-east. It is one of three visits he has planned today, and other cabinet ministers are also on visits to promote levelling up funding awards.

Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, are in Davos today.

And at some point Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, is expected to announced that he is again delaying the deadline for the creation of a power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland. He needs to act because otherwise, by law, there would have to be an election, and it is generally agreed that, with the parties in deadlock over the Northern Ireland protocol, going to the polls would not help.

I’ll try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

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