“It stinks”. That’s the assessment of Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham, to the news it was Conservative Ministers have rejected Billingham’s “Levelling Up” bid for a second time while announcing the Prime Minister’s own constituency of Richmond was set to receive £19 million in investment.
The much-delayed Round Two of Levelling Up bidding was announced on the evening of Wednesday 18 January, with areas like Billingham and Middlesbrough missing out on funding.
The North East received £108 million overall, £102 million less than that which was awarded to the South East region (£210 million).
Responding to the announcement, Alex said:
“Billingham is fit to burst with potential but once again its bid for “Levelling Up” money has been rejected by Tory Ministers. Yet bids for the much more affluent areas like Richmond, the Prime Minister’s constituency no less, reap the benefits of investment.
“The whole thing stinks. The Tories like to talk a good talk on levelling up, but this and the fact the North East as a whole received £108 million compared to £210 million for the South East – is yet more proof that “Levelling Up” is a sham.
“Only last summer Rishi Sunak was boasting about changing funding formulas so that money was taken from more deprived areas and given to affluent communities. I think it’s high time that the Prime Minister explains to the people of Billingham why he feels their hometown isn’t deserving of this investment.
“In contrast, where the Conservative Government fails to support communities like Billingham, our Labour-led Stockton Borough Council recognises the what needs to be done and is supporting the town through a wide-scale regeneration programme. The Council should be commended for its forward-thinking attitude and willingness to put its money where its mouth is to support local people.”
An Urgent Question was heard in Parliament today (Thursday 19 January) with Alex raising the Government’s rejection of the Billingham bid.
Alex’s full exchange in Parliament can be found here.
Alex did welcome the news that the Tees Valley as a whole was awarded over £17 million through the TVCA’s “Tees Valley: Connecting our most deprived communities to opportunity through active travel” bid.
“As welcome as this funding is, however, this whole bidding process shows that we need seriously rethink how we do things, move away from a system that pits community against community for small pots of money, and provide communities and local leaders with the resources and powers to drive forward growth and improve life chances.”