Council asks government to refund costs of failed levelling-up bids

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On November 20th, the government released their list of successful levelling up bids; all County Durham bids for the third round of funding were unsuccessful. The Council have asked the government to reimburse the £1.2 million spent on the bids, claiming that they were unaware of a rule change.

The proposals for Country Durham included stabilisation works on the A690, active travel measures for Durham City centre, and regeneration projects for various towns in County Durham such as Horden and Stanley.

In response to the announcement, Mary Foy, MP for Durham City, posted on X (formerly Twitter), “What a joke this government is”.

The government’s methodology has changed since previous rounds. Now areas that benefited from funding in the first round no longer benefit in the successive round. This decision impacted Country Durham’s bids as Bishop Auckland received £20m in first-round funding.

Amanda Hopgood, leader of Durham County Council, said that they were unaware of the rule change and that it had been “changed yet again without anyone’s knowledge.”

In a statement, she said that “a further letter has been sent to government, requesting full reimbursement of the Council’s costs.”

“A further letter has been sent to government, requesting full reimbursement of the Council’s costs”

durham city cp, mary foy

Country Durham was also removed as a priority area before the third round was decided. In response, Labour Councillor Kevin Shaw has suggested that the council should explore legal options and “take every possible step” to recover funds.

The Department of Levelling up, Housing and Communities (DLUPHC) said that the successful third round bids were picked from previously unsuccessful bids and that £125,000 had been allocated to the local authorities most in need of assistance after the previous two rounds to support bid development.

Palatinate reached out to the Department for comment and received no response. A DLUPHC spokesperson told the BBC “the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund is giving a major boost to our towns and cities and is improving everyday life for people across the UK. Durham County Council has received £20m from the Long-Term Plan for Towns and £19m from the Future High Streets Fund.”

The Council is asking for £1.2m reimbursement for its failed bids. A government spokesperson said that Durham had received some £40m through other funds and that the bidding costs, including fees for external consultants, will not be refunded.

Image: Peter Robinson via Wikimedia Commons

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