Levelling Up White Paper & Lessons Learnt
Now that the much-awaited Levelling Up White Paper has been released, Local Authorities will be eagerly preparing for the next round of applications to the Levelling Up Fund. This is an opportunity to secure sizeable grants to radically transform places, creating positive outcomes for communities and economies.
WHAT IS THE LEVELLING UP FUND?
- Until 2024-25, the £4.8 billion fund will support ‘shovel ready’ capital projects that demonstrably benefit communities. Round 1 themes were transport, regeneration and culture.
- UK Local Authorities can apply for funding of up to £20m per bid (either standalone projects or a package of up to three); up to £50m per bid was available for larger transport projects.
- The LUF Application Form closely follows the HM Treasury Green Book 5 Case Model and the assessment criteria for the proposals included:
o Strategic Fit: Evidence of local need and alignment to stakeholder priorities
o Value for Money: Effectiveness of proposals addressing need, incl. benefit cost ratios
o Deliverability: Reflective of financial, management and commercial cases
- Areas are prioritised based on their need for economic recovery and growth, Category 1 areas present the greatest need.
ROUND 1 LESSONS LEARNT
305 bids were submitted in Summer 2021, 293 made it through the Gateway Review stage, demonstrating that they could deliver expenditure in 2021/22. However, just 105 bids successfully secured £1.7 billion of funding in Round 1. The North West demonstrated the greatest need, securing £232 million for 12 bids. London was less successful, receiving £65m for 6 bids.
As Round 2 fast approaches, there are several lessons that can be learnt to help Local Authorities have a stronger chance of securing capital in such a highly competitive fund:
- Connecting the dots: For bids comprising multiple projects, prioritise those that clearly align with each other, to represent a coherent set of interventions. This will help to develop and illustrate a strong case for investment, which can be difficult to achieve for three disparate projects.
- Compelling narrative and robust data: Articulating the case for investment through robust data points and a compelling narrative can help secure funding, this is especially important for Category 2 and 3 areas. Incorporating impactful projects that already have outline business cases developed should make this less challenging. And although Category 1 received the largest sum of funding (~70%), Category 2 successfully secured 17% of funding, almost £300m across 19 bids.
- Engage, engage, engage: Exhibiting strong strategic fit with stakeholders is key to your application. Demonstrating long term engagement with local residents, businesses and community groups will convey a bid that is supported by a wide range of stakeholders and is most likely to succeed in the long term.
- Fail to prepare, prepare to fail: Additional information is required to support your bid, this includes letters of support from your MP / other stakeholders and a Chief Finance Officer declaration. Ensure that your project team and stakeholders are aware of their inputs far in advance to avoid a sudden dash before the submission deadline.
- If at first you don’t succeed: Unsuccessful applicants in Round 1 should have received feedback and guidance to help improve their applications, should they wish to apply for funding again. Now is a good time to reflect and strengthen your bid in the areas required.
HOW WE SUPPORTED OUR CLIENTS?
Having successfully secured £60m of funding for our clients in Round One of the Levelling Up Fund, we know what works and can bring this expertise to support Round Two applications in Spring 2022.
Working alongside three Local Authority partners, Fourth Street supported a total of four bid applications. With a 75% success rate, we were able to secure funding for three transformational bids in Wakefield and Sheffield. The White Paper has since identified Sheffield as a strategic growth location, due to undergo major economic transformation to increase “local prosperity, improved social mobility and bolstered pride of place.”
Fourth Street helped clients to build a strong, convincing narrative for each bid. We successfully articulated the need for investment, demonstrated alignment with stakeholder priorities and evidenced local challenges and project impact on local communities / economies. Crucially, our experience in bid writing and applications to government and other major funders enabled us to offer clarifications and clear guidance on ambiguous guidelines. We also acted in a project management role, coordinating multiple stakeholder groups and external consultants to ensure tight deadlines were met.
To discuss how we can support Local Authorities in managing or developing future rounds of LUF applications, please contact:
- Serena Xtoumouzienne (Senior Consultant): firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dan Anderson (Director): email@example.com
For further Fourth Street insights on the Levelling Up Fund, read Mary-Helen's thoughts on UK Structural Funds After Brexit.