Council Leader hits back over criticism about Levelling Up Fund bids
Published 11th November 2021
Councillor Rajbir Singh, Leader of Sandwell Council, has hit back over criticism of the council's decision to apply for the second round of the government's Levelling Up Fund.
In March 2021, the Government invited councils to enter the first round of bids for the £4.8 billion UK-wide Levelling Up Fund. It was clear from the information published at the time that further rounds of bidding would be announced for this national fund.
Councillor Singh said: "Recent stories have unfairly criticised Sandwell Council for not applying for the first round of the Levelling Up Fund.
"Suggesting we couldn't be bothered to apply is grossly unfair to the council and the team who are working tirelessly behind the scenes to prepare bids for round two.
"The Government's own guidance for applying for funding states local authorities are 'encouraged to consider whether bids that they wish to submit for the first round of the Fund reflect their local priorities, or if they should wait until later rounds so that they have more time to consider and develop their proposals'.
"Not only are the team working on bids for the second round, they are also busy overseeing projects following the £67.5million Sandwell received earlier this year as part of the government's Towns Fund.
"Congratulations to Birmingham and Wolverhampton - the only bids successful from local authorities near to Sandwell. We hope our bids for the second round of funding will enjoy the same success.
As part of Sandwell Council's successful Towns Fund bids, announced in March 2021, West Bromwich is allocated £25 million, Smethwick £23.5 million and Rowley Regis (including parts of Oldbury) £19 million. This money will fund 17 projects across four of Sandwell's six towns.
Councillor Singh added: "We have been allocated this money due to excellent bids made by Sandwell Council for the Towns Fund but the hard work doesn't stop there. We have to plan and consult with residents before meeting the criteria set out by the Government to get these funds released to us.
"I am fully committed to ensuring Sandwell is not left behind and receives the funding our residents deserve. I hope we are able to repeat the success of the Towns Fund with our Levelling Up Fund bids.
"We will be working with relevant partners to develop our bids and await the announcement from the Government on the next round."
Sandwell Council is currently recruiting a Levelling Up Fund Manager to oversee the process and maximise the opportunities available for the area.