UK Levelling Up fund ‘failing to prioritise’ deprivation and homelessness in Scotland

Areas with high levels of homelessness and deprivation in Scotland are missing out on “much needed” UK Government funding, a think-tank has warned.

The report, by think-tank NPC, claims that high homelessness areas have so far been missing out on Levelling Up funding, with the Government failing to consistently prioritise areas with the worst rates of homelessness across the UK since the scheme was launched ten months ago.

The £4.8 billion Levelling Up fund, announced at Westminster’s Spending Review in March, aims to “invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK”.

In Scotland, the 20 per cent of local authorities with the highest homelessness rates received less Levelling Up funding than the 20 per cent of local authorities with the lowest homelessness rates.

Michael Gove is the UK Government Minister for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Picture: PA

Of the 20 per cent of local authorities with the highest homelessness rates in Scotland, three have received no Levelling Up funding so far. These were Clackmannanshire, West Lothian and Dundee City.

Meanwhile, of the 20 per cent most deprived local authorities, four received no Levelling Up funding.

These were Inverclyde, North Lanarkshire, Dundee City and East Ayrshire.

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At the weekend, Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove insisted that cash is available for Levelling Up projects. He said that his budget for levelling up was "significantly increased" at the last Government spending review – despite criticism from Tory mayor Ben Houchen who called for for "visible signs" of action from the Government.

The NPC report said that whilst money has generally been going to places with higher rates of deprivation and crime in England, this is not the case in Scotland or Wales, where the amount of allocated funding per head is less than in England.

In Scotland, six of the ten most deprived local authorities are not yet receiving any Levelling Up funding.

Per person, Scotland has received just 9.1 per cent of all Levelling Up funding, with 8.2 per cent of the population.

The findings follow previous NPC research, which discovered the three issues people consider most integral to whether or not their area had “levelled up” are homelessness, poverty, and crime.

The study also found a general bias in the Levelling Up agenda towards physical infrastructure rather than social needs – with just 2 per cent of total funding going on social infrastructure so far.

NPC’s analysis comes ahead of a UK Government White Paper rumoured to put living standards as a key priority.

Leah Davis, NPC’s head of policy and external affairs, said: “When you ask people how they would judge their area to have levelled up, they’ll tell you about the social issues in their area, like homelessness, crime, and poverty.

"Yet so far Levelling Up money has been focused on physical infrastructure, and we’re not seeing targeting towards places with higher rates of homelessness, despite these issues being what the public most care about.

"With a White Paper imminent and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund yet to be fully allocated, the Government has a real opportunity to set this right.”

A DLUHC spokesperson said: "This highly misleading report fundamentally misunderstands the devolution settlements. Housing, including homelessness, and criminal justice policy are devolved matters and more than half the funds referred to are England-only schemes, which create consequential increases for the budgets of the devolved administrations.

“Our ambitious plans for levelling up will transform the economic geography of every corner of the UK – including Scotland – and our White Paper will set out how we will achieve this.

“The UK Government recently announced a record £41 billion per year settlement for the Scottish Government – the largest since devolution over 20 years ago and an increase of £4.6 billion.”

The Scottish Government’s Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work Minister Richard Lochhead said: “The UK Government is putting the devolution settlement at risk through its Levelling Up Agenda by deciding how money is spent in areas of devolved responsibility when it should be for the Scottish Government to set its own priorities."

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