In response to the article released By North Devon Council North Devon Council Leader disappointed at broken 'levelling up' promises, Selaine Saxby MP has released the following statement:
“Last week in the Budget further details were announced about the Levelling Up Fund, which I have been eagerly awaiting as a source of delivering further infrastructure improvement projects to North Devon. With the Fund guidance there is a prioritisation which has been determined by civil servants, and full details of this have yet to be released by the Treasury. Against this backdrop, I immediately called the Chief Executive of North Devon Council with suggestions of the projects we could put into the application process, as this fund requires MPs to be involved in the submission.
I was disappointed to see North Devon put into the priority group three for levelling up and immediately raised this directly with the Secretary of State, The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, as the fund is being administered through the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. I met with the Secretary of State on Monday this week who confirmed further guidance and details about the methodology is coming later this week. During this meeting it was also confirmed that the prioritisation is linked to the announced investment into the associated council area which has been extensive in North Devon since 2015.
North Devon Council are aware that I have asked these questions and I am disappointed that they appear to have already given up and resorted to complaining to the press. Something that has become endemic under the current political leadership.
While I await the official response from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, I have been told that It is important to understand that the prioritisation lists 1-3 have no impact on the final assessment and awarding of bids. All areas in the country are equally eligible to apply to the fund, and all bids will be considered using a variety of other metrics. The priority lists are more an indication the sorts of places which the fund would be aimed at and therefore encouraged to apply. We are indeed encouraged to apply.
Since 2015 the Government has announced significant investment in the Link Road, a £250 million hospital scheme, multiple awards to enable difficult housing projects like Seven Brethren and the Ilfracombe Southern Extension, we have a new leisure centre being built as well as the Enterprise Centre, the Ilfracombe Watersports Centre has been awarded funding twice and we have recently had the very welcome investment in Barnstaple High Street. All of these projects are likely reflected in the prioritisation.
I am already working on what we should be looking for with this fund and I am determined that all, if not the bulk, of any bid that we put forward should be into Ilfracombe. Unfortunately North Devon Council do not have shovel ready projects for Ilfracombe which makes a rapid application to the Levelling Up Fund more difficult, but I am already working with interested groups in Ilfracombe with development project ideas.
I intend to continue to deliver investment into North Devon. I am disappointed that our local council leader has chosen to jump to political press statements without waiting for full details of the prioritisation or even speaking with their MP, who will be instrumental in ensuring that the funds are accessed by North Devon.”