Anger Norfolk losing out to the north on millions of levelling-up cash

Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to

Chancellor Rishi Sunak. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Norfolk and Waveney is missing out when it comes to the government's 'levelling-up' drive - with just £92 allocated per person in the east of England compared to £359 in parts of the north.

A new report has highlighted how the region, which has pockets of major deprivation in areas such as Norwich, Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn and Lowestoft, is being short-changed as the government's much-vaunted agenda focuses on the north and the Midlands.

Summer in Great Yarmouth on the seafront. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Levelling up money could help areas such as Great Yarmouth. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Concerned Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor warned the region could be "left behind", while Waveney MP Peter Aldous has raised the issue in the Commons.

MP Peter Aldous

Waveney Conservative MP Peter Aldous. - Credit: Jamie Honeywood

Analysis by the East of England Local Government Association (EELGA), which represents 50 councils in the region, looked at how the region fared following chancellor Rishi Sunak's recent spending review.

When it came to the government's actual Levelling Up Fund, the region received £87m. None of that was for Norfolk or Suffolk.

In the East of England that means £13.88 spending per person, below the national average of £23.91 and three times lower than the £41.72 in the East Midlands.

The report said allocations from the UK Community Renewal Fund was more positive, with the East getting £19.8m.

That was the second highest in the UK regions and equated to £3.20 per person.

But the analysis found combining all allocated projects in the regional factsheet, which was published alongside the budget, the East of England ends up with the second lowest per person spend of any region, bar London, with £92 per person.

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The UK average is £184 per person, while Yorkshire and the Humber got £359 per person.

A general view of the Humber Bridge taken from Hessle Foreshore near Hull.

The Humber Bridge, near Hull. Analysis shows government levelling-up spending per head in Yorkshire and Humber is much higher than in the East of England. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Photos

Statistics from 2019 show 15 of the 20 most deprived parts of the country are in the north or the Midlands.

But Hull is the only one in Yorkshire and Humberside, while Great Yarmouth features for Norfolk, with parts of Lowestoft also among the most deprived areas.

Lowestoft High Street.

Lowestoft High Street. - Credit: Mick Howes

The EELGA report stated: "The East of England is not being levelled up in the same way as the rest of the country.

"This could have negative ramifications for our region, particularly in the areas of deprivation that could use this funding to catch up with the rest of the country. It could also have a negative impact on the region’s ability to continue to be a net contributor to UK PLC."

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Andrew Proctor, Norfolk County Council leader, said the East of England deserved to get its fair share and must not be left behind.

He said: "We’ve seen how government is addressing the levelling up agenda in the north of the country and we’re clear that there’s similar vast potential in the east of the country that further targeted government funding can unlock.

"The East of England must not be left behind so all the councils across the area are taking every opportunity to promote the east, and in our case, Norfolk working closely with our MPs to get our fair share of investment.

"How many times have we said we need long term funding commitments from the government?

"With that help we can look ahead and build on the successful new industries we’re already attracting, boost skills and create jobs where they’re needed."

Linda Haysey

Linda Haysey, chair of the East of England Local Government Association. - Credit: EELGA

Linda Haysey, chair of EELGA said: “The East of England received 40pc less of the Levelling Up funding when compared to other parts of the UK, plus we have lost out to urban areas in other regions who will benefit from a much larger share of crucial transport investments.

“As a result, we now face even greater challenges for some of our rural areas, coastal communities, and towns where significant deprivation and inequalities existed pre-Covid."

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson, said:  "The East of England has received almost £300m through various Levelling Up funds over the past three years to benefit community projects across the region including a new science lab for Peterborough and a self-employment support project across Norfolk and Suffolk, with a particular focus on helping disadvantaged communities.

“We have prioritised bids from places in need and will fund multiple projects in every nation of the UK and in every region of England.

"There will be another opportunity to reapply in round two which will be opened in spring 2022.”

The spokesperson said Norwich, Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn and Lowestoft had benefited from multi-million pound Town Deals, while Yarmouth also got £13.7m through the Future High Streets Fund.

Analysis

Since the 2019 election, prime minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly spoken of his desire to 'level up' the country.

While critics have questioned whether there is much meat on the bones behind that slogan, the concept that areas of the country which have traditionally missed out on cash is a sound one.

However, the problems come when politics enters the fray.

How much of this zeal to help previously neglected areas is driven by the Conservatives need to retain the so-called red wall constituencies which turned blue in 2019?

And the concern, as far as Norfolk and Waveney goes, is that, with many of the seats in our region considered safer hunting ground by the Conservatives - the money will not come here.

That, our politicians say, would be unfair. We are not London or the South East and should not be lumped in with those relatively affluent areas.

They have long argued the region has not received its fair share of funding - and our MPs will be expected to keep making that point to ensure we do not miss out.