North East Devolution and Levelling Up

Levelling Up Fund faces legal challenge

The High Court has granted permission for a legal challenge to the Levelling Up Fund by the Good Law Project, which claims it is a way to funnel money into constituencies of political benefit to the Conservative Party, Northern Agenda reports.  

The £4.8bn Fund was announced in the Government’s 2020 spending review and is intended to support town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets.

In England, local authorities are placed in three priority categories of eligibility for funding according to their need, with 93 local authority areas in category 1, 108 in category 2 and 113 in category 3.

Of the 12 council areas in the North East and Tees Valley all but two are in the category 1. The exceptions are Darlington and North Tyneside, which are in category 2. Darlington has a Conservative council and Conservative MP while North Tyneside has a Labour council and Labour MPs.

According to the Good Law Project: ‘The huge £4.8bn Fund pretends to be the centrepiece of a levelling up agenda – but we think it’s just a way to funnel money into constituencies of political benefit to the Conservative Party’.

Northern Agenda reports it has seen legal documents which allege that the defendants, listed as Chancellor Rishi Sunak,Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, ‘breached the common law duty of transparency and good administration by failing, in breach of their own commitments, to make publicly available data said to be used for the purposes of the Allocation Decisions.’

Mr Justice Bourne, who granted the Good Law Project’s application for a judicial review, is reported to have ruled that the grounds were arguable, though he suggested that ‘the existence of a free-standing principle of a duty of transparency…is at best debatable’.

A policy paper setting out the methodology for prioritising places for the Fund was published on the Government website on June 11.