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Council leader plays down levelling up bid row

09 Jul 2022 3 minute read
County Hall in Ruthin, Denbighshire

Richard Evans, local democracy reporter

Cllr Jason McLellan says, as the leader of Denbighshire, he is still hoping to work with Conwy Council, despite the neighbouring authority facing criticism last week for pulling out late from a joint funding bid.

Conwy came under fire from MP David Jones and various Denbighshire cabinet members after ‘risking’ tens of millions of pounds.

The row followed Conwy and Denbighshire agreeing in November 2021 to submit a joint bid for the UK Levelling Up Fund.

The Government regeneration pot initially offered £20m to a single constituency, as both Conwy and Denbighshire were set to share the funding available for Clwyd West.

Conwy wanted the funds to upgrade its Eirias Park stadium whilst Denbighshire hoped to invest in numerous community projects in and around Ruthin.

While UK Government decides on winning bids, the MP can prioritise only one bid with his or her backing, which is considered in the scoring process, so when Conwy dropped out of the joint bid to go it alone, Denbighshire had to start a new bid.

Fortunately for Denbighshire, MP David Jones backed Denbighshire’s bid, although a final decision is yet to be made by UK Government.

No bad blood

Now Denbighshire’s leader Cllr Jason McLellan has reassured Conwy that, despite the neighbouring authority having faced criticism, there is no bad blood between the authorities.

“As far as I’m concerned as the new leader, this was an issue I inherited,” said Cllr McLellan.

“This was probably the biggest… the first thing in my in-tray. As someone who was coming to the table new, I was very well briefed on the background of this, and I could certainly see the benefits of a joint bid, and it was difficult for me, to be blunt, to get my head around Conwy’s reasoning; nevertheless, that was their reasoning. That was their decision.

“The outcome of that decision, as you know, is that the MP David Jones has backed Denbighshire’s bid over Conwy’s bid. It still has to have approval from the UK Government. That is a process that is ongoing. But we are where we are.

“That process will not be bad blood. I’ll be more than happy to work with Charlie McCoubrey, the leader of Conwy, and work on all the various regional boards that are out there as a way forward, and as far as I’m concerned, there is no bad blood between myself and the leader of Conwy – and Denbighshire and Conwy.

“It was a decision made by Conwy. I didn’t think it was the right decision. It was nothing that myself or Denbighshire had any control over. They made the decision, and the outcome is what it is. We move on. I’ll be happy to work with Charlie and the rest of the North Wales leaders as well.”

Denbighshire’s bid for the UK Levelling Up Fund includes several proposals, including restoration work at St Peter’s Square’s clock tower, cycle and walking paths at Moel Famau and a new community centre at Gwyddelwern.

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