Chancellor's 'levelling up' fund branded 'postcode lottery' after south of Portsmouth is snubbed
THE government’s levelling up fund has been branded a ‘postcode lottery’ by a furious city MP after the chancellor refused to give a single penny to his constituency.
Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, has vented his outrage following Rishi Sunak’s Budget announcement at the end of October.
The north of Portsmouth – represented by Tory cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt – received £20m for several projects, including an urban park, upgrades to Hilsea Lido and a new cruise terminal.
But projects backed by Mr Morgan and Portsmouth City Council elsewhere in the city – which included funding to overhaul the leisure facilities in the south of the city – failed to impress.
Likewise, Gosport, which the government identified as a ‘priority 1 area’ for levelling up, also got nothing.
Worse still, Mr Morgan said many projects that would have benefited the city had to be excluded from bids altogether, because of the ‘fund’s narrow criteria’.
This includes the long-overdue regeneration of the city centre, the rejuvenation of Portsmouth Harbour’s transport hub to improve access to the historic dockyard and Gunwharf Quay, and improving pedestrian access between Fratton station and the football stadium.
Ministers required projects to be ‘shovel ready’ and able to demonstrate that investment will begin delivery on the ground in this financial year, with all funding being spent by March 2024.
The city MP wrote to the Chancellor in July to raise concerns about the narrow scope of the fund in July, suggesting that it was ‘likely to stifle the very projects the fund should be investing in’.
He also said that the ‘mad rush’ for projects to be completed by 2024 raised concerns that the government is ‘administering the fund for short term political gain, as opposed to taking a long-term, constructive approach – the absence of which has arguably created the need for a levelling up agenda in the first place’.
The lack of cash to Portsmouth South came as the constituency was ranked 160th out of 573 parliamentary constituencies in England and Wales in need of levelling up, with the are being shown to be 30 per cent higher than the average on both crime and deprivation and ranked in the bottom 20 constituencies on health, based on the number of GPs and the average life expectancy for the area.
Mr Morgan said: ‘It’s now clear the government’s approach to “levelling up” is a postcode lottery based only on their political ambitions, not a genuine desire to support communities.
‘I have long-supported improvements to the north of the city, including the new John Jenkins stadium, but to leave the south without a penny fails to address the major inequalities between our areas.
‘Ministers must take a long-term approach to supporting prosperity across the whole of Portsmouth. I will continue to work with the council on the next round of bids, and lobby government to put opportunity and prosperity on the doorsteps of everyone in our city.’