Westminster ‘trampling over’ Welsh Gov with ‘Levelling Up Fund’
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Westminster is “trampling over” the Welsh Government with its so called ‘Levelling Up Fund’, it has been claimed.
Council leader Emlyn Dole hit out at the UK Government during a meeting of Carmarthenshire Council, where members discussed the fund that the UK Government is using to bypass the Senedd.
Wales is expected to receive a £30m to £50m share of the new fund in 2021-22, and bids must be submitted by June 18, and Dole said the council is in a “race” to get its hands on the cash.
Carmarthenshire Council’s executive board has approved the submission of two bids: one to create a multi-use and multi-agency development in Carmarthen town centre, and the second to buy land to help deliver the Towy Valley shared-use path between Carmarthen and Llandeilo.
“In essence we are part of a race here,” said Cllr Dole.
Executive board members welcomed the money but voiced frustration that it was money, they said, which used to be given to the Welsh Government to administer.
“The (UK) Government is unwilling to give the money to the Welsh Government – in a way they are going behind their backs,” said Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths. “It’s very disappointing in that sense.”
Cllr Dole agreed, saying there was a “trampling over the Welsh Government here”.
The Carmarthenshire Plaid Cymru leader also said the UK Government had promised Wales “pound for pound” in terms of the financial support it used to receive from the European Union. He said this parity of support was not clear yet.
Council officers are also developing a project bid for Llanelli but more work is needed before it is submitted for consideration.
The UK-wide Levelling Up Fund is a four-year, £4.8 billion initiative for capital projects. The UK Government has published categories of need for local authority areas. Carmarthenshire is in the highest category, but the bidding process is competitive.
Executive board members have also put the structures in place to administer another UK pot of money called the Community Renewal Fund.
Carmarthenshire is expected to receive £3 million from Westminster this financial year. The Community Renewal Fund is revenue money for pilot projects run by various community organisations, including charities, town councils and education providers.
Councils will examine and prioritise local projects, which must focus on skills, employment and local business investment, and submit a shortlist to the UK Government next month.
The UK is still spending the last of its EU money, according to the Conservative Government. Ministers are replacing it next year with a new Shared Prosperity Fund.
Cllr Hazel Evans said she fully supported the Towy Valley shared use path funding bid.
The Plaid-Independent council suspended funding for the 16-mile path for 2021-22 and called on the Welsh Government to stump up cash for it, but council leaders have reiterated their commitment to the project.
Cllr Evans said the Towy Valley path was vital for the county, linking villages and towns along the way and providing leisure opportunities.
She said: “It’s a route to work for a lot of people who would never cycle on the A40.”