Local economic growth – Report Summary

This is a House of Commons Committee report, with recommendations to government. The Government has two months to respond.

Author: Committee of Public Accounts

Related inquiry: Supporting local economic growth

Date Published: 8 June 2022

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In November 2021, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities awarded £1.7 billion through 105 awards in the first round of the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund. However, principles for awarding funding were only finalised by Ministers after they knew who, from the 170 shortlisted bidders, would win and who would not as a result of those principles. In future, the committee recommends principles for awarding funding must be determined before shortlisted bidders are disclosed to ministers. We are also concerned that some bidders may have been successful on the basis of unrealistic claims about how ready their projects were to deliver, at the expense of other, more realistic, bids from elsewhere.

Despite billions spent on local growth policies over many years, the Government still does not have a strong understanding of what works. Local authorities have faced a confusion of different funding pots and have had to respond piecemeal to each new announcement over the years. What is needed is greater certainty so local authorities can plan and deliver the right investments that make a difference in their areas. We welcome the Department’s belated plans to put proper evaluations in place and to improve coordination between central and local government. But these plans are long overdue and much work remains. The Department also needs to demonstrate how the priorities of the devolved administrations will be addressed in the context of administering these local growth funds on a UK-wide basis.