Tory MP slammed over levelling up bid failure
Denbighshire Council’s leader has slammed a Tory MP, claiming he has let down the people of Rhyl and north Denbighshire, after the region missed out on £20m of UK Government funding.
The Vale of Clwyd’s bid for the UK Government’s Levelling-Up Fund was unsuccessful, despite reaching a shortlisting phase.
Consequently, several regeneration projects in Rhyl, Prestatyn, Rhuddlan, and Denbigh are now in doubt.
The Levelling-Up Fund was part of the UK Government’s 2019 manifesto aimed at tackling the negative impact of Brexit, helping to regenerate town centres and historic buildings – with individual bids requiring local MP support – support that Vale of Clwyd MP James Davies pledged.
In a letter dated December 7, 2021, Dr Davies said he pledged his “full and enthusiastic support” to the bid, citing how the funding could help the area’s economic regeneration.
But the Vale of Clwyd’s bid ultimately failed, throwing numerous regeneration projects into doubt.
This includes regeneration work to Rhyl’s prom and town centre, Prestatyn town centre, improvements to Bodelwyddan Country Park, and the demolition of Denbigh Hospital.
A bid for £11.5m for regeneration in Clwyd West was successful.
Denbighshire Council’s leader, Councillor Jason McLellan, a Labour politician, was furious and singled out the Vale of Clwyd MP Dr James Davies, a Conservative, for special criticism.
In response, Dr Davies said he had many discussions about the bid, but was told decisions “would be based on the independent scoring process”. He added that he was “optimistic that with continued partnership working, the third round of the fund can bring success”.
He said: “I’m really cross with the government. I had one meeting with the MP James Davies, and that was more about the Shared Prosperity Fund, not the Levelling-Up fund.
“I don’t think he engaged with me particularly well, and I had a call late last night from the (Denbighshire) chief exec who had chased up James Davies because we had heard about the successful Clwyd West bid, but other than that, I would have been finding out about it reading in the paper.
“James Davies has let down the people of Rhyl and north Denbighshire.
“I did have meetings with MP David Jones, so I’m not being purely party political, but the Vale of Clwyd has been badly let down.
“James Davies has let the constituency down. He was an advocate for Brexit.
“He was a strong supporter of Boris Johnson’s campaign in 2019 to ‘Get Brexit Done’, and he’s been an advocate of this process all along, and the end result for Rhyl, Prestatyn, Rhuddlan, and north Denbighshire is that we do not get a penny.
“The people of Rhyl, Prestatyn, Denbigh, and Rhuddlan are going to be very disappointed.
“My priority is working with the officers to salvage these projects, but as always, decisions do have political implications.
“We are not very far away from a general election, are we? So the people of the Vale of Clwyd can have their say then.”
The leader said the whole bidding process, which relied on MPs’ individual support, was undemocratic and unfair, despite MP James Davies backing the funding bid.
“I’m disappointed with the whole process,” said Cllr McLellan.
“I don’t think it was a democratic process. It bypassed devolution.
“It put the powers and the choice within individual members of parliament.
“What we have in the Vale of Clwyd now is we are faced with a situation where infrastructure projects, regeneration projects, are not going to get the funding.
“I’m really disappointed.
“I think the UK Government has let the Vale of Clwyd down. It has let the people of Rhyl down, Prestatyn, Rhuddlan, all these areas in north Denbighshire.
“The big ticket ones were contributions to Queen’s Market – that’s a smaller amount – we can still crack on with the Queen’s market.
“The general public realm of Rhyl, making Rhyl look nicer, big plans on the prom, the former North Wales hospital in Denbigh, the public realm in Prestatyn, these are all big-ticket projects where we were expecting the money.
“The bid was shortlisted, but then it was pulled.”
The leader said he was now having emergency meetings with council officers.
The projects that missed out on the UK Government’s funding included:
£5,250,000 earmarked for Rhyl Town Centre
£4,000,000 for Rhyl’s Central Promenade Scheme, re-connecting the town centre with the promenade and beach
£2,500,000 for improvements to Prestatyn’s public realm and High Street
£2,750,000 for the demolition of Denbigh Hospital and the clearance of buildings
£1,200,000 for Denbigh Buttermarket Community Hub Repurpose – a Grade II listed building to be developed into a health, wellbeing, and culture centre with museum area and archives
£1,000,000 for Bodelwyddan Country Park improvements, including new woodland planting, trees, and wildflower meadow and new access paths, car parking, toilets, etc
£900,000 for the Rhyl Town Centre Gateway Scheme demolition and redevelopment
£500,000 for Rhyl Queens Building
£750,000 for Prestatyn Repurposed Nature Walk, including upgrades to Dyserth Way and accessibility for all at Morfa and numerous improvements
£200,000 for Rhuddlan Coed Y Brain Community Hub – conversion of former children’s nursery into a community facility.
A separate bid of over £11m in Clwyd West was successful.
The money will now fund numerous regeneration schemes, including improvements to St Peter’s Square Ruthin; St Peter’s Square clock tower; Ruthin Gaol at 46 Clwyd Street; Nant Clwyd y Dre – west wing and gazebo restoration; green space improvements at Cae Ddol; catering and toilet facilities at Moel Fammau as well as cycling/walking paths; enhanced facilities and flood prevention at the Loggerheads building; a community hub renovation at Bryneglwys School; and a new community centre at Gwyddelwern.
Cllr Hugh Evans said: “I’m absolutely over the moon. This has been a long wait for the people of Gwyddelwern and Bryneglwys.
“I’m really pleased.
“Speaking as the local member, the residents deserve this for their patience, but I’m also pleased that the Levelling-Up Fund has reached small rural communities.
“From the hierarchy of Westminster, it has filtered through the local authority right to small communities in the rural areas, and it shows that the Levelling-Up Fund can work if the right conversations are had and the work is put in.
“Some of the local residents have put a lot of time and effort into making this happen.”
In response, Dr Davies said: “The UK Government has placed Denbighshire in the highest priority category for receipt of Levelling Up monies, largely due to deprivation present in parts of Rhyl and Denbigh. It provided capacity funding to support the preparation and submission of a high-quality bid for the Vale of Clwyd constituency area and I understand the hard work carried out so far has been recognised and met many of the necessary criteria.
“However, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)’s independent scoring process requires an even stronger bid before funding can be released. The department therefore intends to work with the county council to modify its proposals to achieve this.
“I am grateful to Levelling Up Minister Dehenna Davison MP for agreeing to visit Rhyl shortly to discuss how best to ensure the proposals can progress via round three of the fund. During the formulation of the Vale of Clwyd ‘Levelling Up Fund’ bid, very many hours of engagement were spent between myself, Denbighshire County Council officers and elected councillors of all parties.
“The council went on to liaise closely with officials at DLUHC. Following the council’s submission of the bid, I held repeated meetings and conversations with the Chancellor and Treasury, No 10 and DLUHC ministers to ensure there was a full and proper understanding of the bid and its importance. However, it was made clear to me that decisions must and would be based on the independent scoring process.
“The ‘Levelling Up Fund’ has already been incredibly positive for North Wales, with the region having received more financial support per head of the population than virtually any other area of the United Kingdom, and Denbighshire itself having had bids approved in both rounds of the process so far.
“Today, DLUHC officials have indicated to me some of the possible reasons why Denbighshire’s third bid missed out on qualifying for funding in this round. I am meeting them next week to discuss these reasons in detail, so that I can advise the council further. This has been a collaborative process, including elected councillors, pursued in good faith by all, and I am optimistic that with continued partnership working, the third round of the fund can bring success.
“Meanwhile, I welcome work being carried out to begin to allocate the £25.6 million that has been awarded to the county from the Government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund – another of the levelling up funding schemes. This will build on the good work already carried out through the £2.9m UK Community Renewal Fund and exceeds the support that the county would have received under the European Union funding metrics.
“I urge the council to continue to also seek investment opportunities within the North Wales Growth Deal and Community Ownership Fund.”
The UK Government said the investment announced will benefit people across Wales by spreading opportunity and breathing new life into historically overlooked areas.
A total of 11 projects in Wales have been allocated more than £208 million.
The projects will create jobs, drive economic growth, help restore people’s pride in the places where they live and spread opportunity more equally, the UK Government said.
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