Colin Smyth MSP
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has said that the lottery-style approach to awarding the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund means many worthy projects in the region are missing out for no reason.
The local MSP welcomed the news that Dalbeattie Rocks and Wheels, Stranraer Water Sports Centre, and the George Hotel in Stranraer were part of a successful £17.7million bid by Dumfries and Galloway Council, however, two other projects, including plans to regenerate Annan Harbour missed out.
The comments come on the back of widespread criticism of the UK Government’s approach to funding projects. West Midlands Conservative Mayor Andy Street condemned the way the levelling up fund operates, saying the ‘bidding and begging bowl culture is broken’.
Colin Smyth said: “The news that the Wigtownshire projects will receive funding is very welcome and I’m particularly happy that the George Hotel plans can finally start moving forward after years of issues for local people thanks to the site lying derelict.
“All three projects were hugely deserving of the cash and will provide a very welcome boost for the area.
“However, I was very disappointed that the other two bids put forward by Dumfries and Galloway Council were unsuccessful.
“In particular, this is a real blow for the Annan Harbour regeneration plans and I hope other means of funding will be able to be secured to ensure the scheme can move forward.
“This really throws into sharp relief the unpredictable “lottery” nature of this funding pot. A lot of time and effort goes into developing bids for projects, the vast majority of which don’t receive support and the reasons why remain a mystery.
“The criteria and how decisions are made is largely shrouded in secret and do a bunch of civil servants in London really know what projects in Dumfries and Galloway should be supported?
“Changes could be made to the scheme to ensure councils received all the money and were then able to distribute it fairly across their area based on local need and knowledge of projects. At least then there would be some local decision making and local accountability.”