Majority of supposedly ‘shovel-ready’ schemes forced to extend deadlines

Just 10% of levelling up funds have been spent and are effecting change on the ground, according to a report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). 

The spending watchdog said the government was unable to provide “any compelling examples” of what Levelling Up funding had so far delivered and claimed more impactful bids had missed out on funding due to bias in favour of supposedly “shovel-ready” projects. 


Source: HM Treasury

Rishi Sunak visiting a levelling-up project in Stoke-on-Trent during his time as chancellor

Jobs given money under the first round of funding were supposed to complete by March 2024, but 60 of 71 of these have had to extend to 2024/25. 

As of September 2023, local authorities have only been able to spend £1.24bn from the government’s three levelling up funds, which are together worth £10.47bn. 

What’s more, only £3.7bn had been given to local authorities out of the total allocation by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) by December 2023. 

The cash must be spent between 2020/21 and 2025/26. 

In its evidence to the committee, DLUHC blamed project-specific issues and the impact of the pandemic and inflation on the lower-than-anticipated level of spending 

Dame Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, said: “The levels of delay that our report finds in one of Government’s flagship policy platforms is absolutely astonishing.  

“The vast majority of Levelling Up projects that were successful in early rounds of funding are now being delivered late, with further delays likely baked in.  

“DLUHC appears to have been blinded by optimism in funding projects that were clearly anything but ‘shovel-ready’, at the expense of projects that could have made a real difference.  

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“We are further concerned, and surprised given the generational ambition of this agenda, that there appears to be no plan to evaluate success in the long-term. 

“Our committee is here to scrutinise value for money in the delivery of Government policy. But in the case of Levelling Up, our report finds that the government is struggling to even get the money out of the door to begin with.” 

DLUHC’s approach to awarding funds, which includes changing rules for accessing funding while bids were still being assessed, was also criticised by the committee. 

The PAC called for six-monthly updates from the department on the amount of money released to and spent by councils, and on the progress of projects themselves.