Councillors criticise ‘Hunger Games’ Levelling Up competition

Stock photo of Cllr Michael Payne (Lab), deputy leader of Gedling Borough Council
By Jamie Waller, Local Democracy Reporter

The process of bidding for government ‘Levelling Up’ cash has been likened to the Hunger Games and Lord of The Flies by Gedling Borough councillors who say the scheme is unfair.

The council has been unsuccessful in every bid it’s made to the fund, while other Nottinghamshire authorities have been given tens of millions of pounds.

Councillors backed a motion from leader Councillor John Clarke (Lab) expressing “bitter disappointment” about the imbalance.

The Labour-controlled council has previously bid for £50m to revitalise Arnold town centre and then £20m in a revised bid, which were both rejected.

Councillor Ruth Strong (Lab) said: “It’s come to a point where councils have to dance to the government’s tune to get anything. They’ve been reduced to  puppets on a string.

“How many man-hours and how much money have been spent on preparing these bids?

“It’s ridiculous that councils have to go these lengths to make long-term plans for residents.”

Deputy leader Councillor Michael Payne (Lab) compared the system to “The Hunger Games”, a film and book series in which contestants fight to the death.

Councillor Russell Whiting (Independent) agreed, saying: “I’ve read that £50m has been spent by councils across the country on Levelling Up bids.

“It’s like me charging my children for them to give me their Christmas list.

“The whole system is Lord of the Flies,” he said, referring to a novel in which survivors on a desert island descend into chaos.

“The winner is the last council standing who can afford the consultants.”

While all parties agreed that Gedling deserved more funding, the Conservative group sought to pin the blame on the council’s leadership.

Councillor Sam Smith (Con) said: “All the failed bids were signed off by the Labour leadership.

“The bids aren’t about politics. Mansfield, Nottingham City and Ashfield – all controlled by other groups – have been successful.”

He also pointed to other sources of funding, including £2.8m from the Shared Prosperity Fund, which was partly used to refurbish the Lambley Lane sports pavilion.

A Conservative amendment which blamed the controlling group failed.

Councillor Andrew Ellwood (Lib Dem) said the whole discussion was “premature” as a working group was reviewing the Levelling Up bids.

“There is certainly a large discrepancy across Nottinghamshire. We first need to find out whether the issues are central (with national government) or local (how funding bids are formulated),” he said.

Ashfield District, which has an independent-led council, has received £91m of Levelling Up funding to date, followed by Mansfield District, which has had a Labour-controlled council since May, with £62m and Newark & Sherwood district with £65m.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has been contacted for comment.

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