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UK Government face legal action over ‘levelling up’ fund that overlooked some of Wales’ poorest areas

05 Apr 2021 2 minute read
Gwynedd and Anglesey, on either side of the Menai Bridge, were placed in lower categories of need. Photo by Nick Cozier on Unsplash

The UK Government is facing legal action by campaigners after what they say is a deliberate attempt to direct public funds to areas that voted Conservative.

There was political disquiet in Wales last month when it was revealed that some of the poorest areas in Wales were in the lowest priority category for the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund.

Gwynedd and Anglesey were placed in priority areas two and three despite previously being in the EU region that received the most funding.

One of Gwynedd’s Plaid Cymru MPs, Liz Saville Roberts, said at the time that “the chancellor includes his own constituency in the highest category of need, while Gwynedd is in the lowest”.

It was later revealed that a different methodology was used for allocating the funds in England compared with Wales and Scotland, with an emphasis in England on travel times by car.

Now the campaign group the Good Law Project are threatening a judicial review of the Levelling Up Fund, arguing that its methodology is unlawful.

They claim that local authorities were ranked in a way designed to favour seats with Tory MPs or Tory targets seats.

They point to the fact that Richmondshire, chancellor Rishi Sunak’s constituency in Yorkshire, was given top priority while deprived but Labour-dominated areas such as Barnsley were in the second tier.

Jolyon Maugham, the barrister who founded the project, said: “If you think that it’s a coincidence that Tory marginals are huge beneficiaries I have a fine bridge to sell you.”

An earlier investigation by the Financial Times analysis found that in England, 14 areas that were wealthier than average were ranked in the neediest category, and all had at least one Conservative MP.

Responding to the proposed legal action in the Financial Times, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “The £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund is open to all places in Great Britain and will play a vital role in helping to support and regenerate communities.

“The published methodology makes clear the metrics used to identify places judged to be most in need. It would not be appropriate to comment on potential legal action.”

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