News source; RSN Online
4th August 2021: The way in which the government is allocating funds for its flagship ‘Levelling Up’ programme is failing to properly recognise the needs of rural communities – according to new research published today by the Rural Services Network.
The report, Towards the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, finds that prioritisation of the Levelling Up Fund has favoured non-metropolitan urban locations, especially in northern England’s ‘Red Wall’, while many other areas of similar need are overlooked.
Large swathes of rural central and southern England, (and indeed northern rural areas) including those that received funds through previous EU-backed programmes, are now seen as a low priority.
Only 18 rural districts were placed on the government’s priority list of 123 local authorities for its Levelling Up Fund. This independent research shows that the number should have been as high as 27 if low standards of living in rural communities were properly accounted for.
The report’s authors, economists and researchers from Pragmatix Advisory, argue:
“The Levelling Up Fund is the latest in a line of UK government-funded programmes to disadvantage rural communities – partly the result of Whitehall’s choice of data on which they make their selections.
“Although detailed, the government’s complex algorithms for allocating funds remain partial, judgemental and, too often, confused.
“The Levelling Up Fund prioritisation framework, for example, considers the number of empty commercial properties, but does not account for the quality of schools. It looks at physical connectivity but does not take into account digital connectivity like broadband speeds or availability.”