South Kesteven District Council leader Councillor Richard Cleaver airs concerns in open letter to Gareth Davies MP as Grantham and other towns in the area overlooked by latest Levelling Up funding
A council leader has questioned why the district received no ‘Levelling Up’ funding in an open letter to Grantham and Stamford’s MP.
Councillor Richard Cleaver (Ind), leader of South Kesteven District Council, wrote to Gareth Davies MP (Con) following a recent government announcement to allocate £1.1 billion to 55 overlooked towns in the UK.
The letter described the announcement as “a real kick in the teeth for South Kesteven” and noted that it was “extremely disappointing” not to have been consulted on the plans, which do not include Grantham, Stamford, Bourne or Market Deeping.
Coun Cleaver highlighted Grantham’s particular need for funding, with The Index of Multiple Deprivation 2019 showing parts of the town are among the most deprived in England.
Mr Davies confirmed that he had responded to Coun Cleaver’s letter, but said that he does not share private correspondence as a matter of principle.
He did outline some of the points made in his response, including his gratitude that Coun Cleaver is supportive of the prime minister’s goal to “refocus attention towards our towns, such as Grantham, placing the needs of less urban, more rural communities like ours at the centre of this country’s long-term thinking”.
Mr Davies also thanked SKDC’s leader for highlighting the “millions of pounds of taxpayer funding announced for our area by the national government as part of their ongoing levelling-up ambitions for our country”.
His response also highlighted the “successful local bids by the former Conservative council since 2019” that have provided the area with “significant targeted funding in the form of £3.9 million through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), £500,000 from the Rural England Prosperity Fund, and the £5.56 million in Future High Street funding for Grantham”.
Coun Cleaver’s letter can be found in full below:
I write in respect of the recent announcement by Government regarding levelling up funding for 55 overlooked towns.
It seems that the hard working and deserving taxpayers of South Kesteven have been abandoned by the latest allocation of Levelling Up funding and I am keen to find out why this area did not receive a single penny of this Government money.
The Government’s new Long-Term Plan for Towns allocated £1.1 billion to 55 towns. Millions of pounds were awarded to other towns in Lincolnshire including Boston, Skegness and Spalding, as well as to Newark, Mansfield and Ashfield, across the Nottinghamshire border.
Many areas that will receive this new award have already benefited greatly from Rounds 1 and 2 of the Levelling Up Fund.
The Prime Minister has rightly said that towns tend to be taken for granted and that a new approach is needed to solve the problems that undermine local prosperity and hold back opportunity.
The decision to overlook Grantham is especially concerning. There is a particular need here.
• The Office for National Statistics highlights that for 2018-20, the average Gross Value Added per job filled was over £7,000 lower in Grantham compared to Newark and Spalding.
• Of the 385 towns about which the ONS has this data for, Grantham is placed 334th.
• The Index of Multiple Deprivation 2019 shows parts of Grantham among the most deprived in England.
• On health outcomes, skills, household income and public safety, Grantham is worse off than the district average.
It is regrettable that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) analysis appears to have focused at district level and then chosen towns in its “priority” districts.
DLUHC’s choice of metrics has in the past been unable to accurately reflect the reality of our district. South Kesteven’s general affluence masks areas of real need from the eyes of Government policy makers; our deprived areas – and believe me we have areas of great need – are completely cancelled out by our more prosperous locations. This is wrong and needs to be rectified. Had the DLUHC started with towns and assessed need at that level, Grantham would have had a much better chance.
This is a familiar story. DLUHC’s Priority Places Index, used to determine Levelling Up need, classes our District as Tier 3 – the lowest priority group. We were the only authority in Lincolnshire to be placed in Tier 3. Inexplicably, North Kesteven was assessed as higher priority, despite DLUHC’s own statistics showing deprivation to be more prevalent and severe in South Kesteven.
It was, therefore, impossible to succeed with an application for Levelling Up Round 1 funding because of this banding. Round 2 required an oven-ready project at short notice to demonstrate need, so we did not bid, and our staff were preparing for Round 3 when the latest 55 towns were unexpectedly announced for this additional funding without us even being invited to apply.
It is extremely disappointing we were not consulted and I would like to understand more about the process and how these decisions are being made.
The Government claims this money went to 55 overlooked towns. Our four market towns of Grantham, Stamford, Bourne and Market Deeping in South Kesteven certainly feel overlooked now.
This is a real kick in the teeth for South Kesteven, which has so much going for it in terms of business, industry, shopping, leisure, tourism and our improving infrastructure, yet is not seen as worth investing in under the Levelling Up process.
I would welcome your comments and how, as MP for Grantham and Stamford, you are going to press the Government to right this wrong.