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The National Audit Office report highlights delays in delivering on Levelling Up

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report on the value for money of the Levelling Up funding for local government including the Towns Fund, the Levelling Up Fund and the Shared Prosperity Fund.

These funds are worth up to £10.6 billion and aim to allocate £9.5 billion to local places to be spent by 31 March 2026.

While the study acknowledges that this is at an early stage of the three funds, a number of comments are made intended to help improve the value for money discussion. The report noted that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities wasn’t prepared to manage the significant upturn in funding and large scale projects, but that this has improved.

The department has also been slow to agree funding for projects and this has meant (through delays, inflation, etc) an increase in the cost of projects and a need to adjust the scope of projects and that the allocation of funding is behind schedule. The report goes on to say:

“To secure value for money and maximise the desired benefits from these funds DLUHC should review expectations for what outcomes can be delivered by when and support local authorities and their partners to deliver the long-term benefits for people in their local places.”

Some of the funds analysed are England only but the majority of funding is UK wide. However of the £10.6billion identified, only £2billion has been given to local areas by 31st March 2023 and less than £1billion has been spent.

The NAO report also notes that there has been some confusion and overlap in terms of the funding that has meant local authorities have struggled to access, bid or identify projects that are appropriate or in a timely manner.

techUK has noted in the past (2022’s Local Digital Index recommendations) that “digital action and activity (should) be identified in future Levelling Up bids and projects to help address regional divides and exclusion.” The Index noted that this didn’t  need to necessarily be funding toward digital projects directly but being more specific in looking at how projects can align with digital needs e.g. improving digital skills, digital adoption work with SMEs or improving digital infrastructure projects such as reliable free wi-fi zones.

In techUK’s 2023 Local Digital Index showed the potential boost in Digital GVA for UK communities by investing in tech and digital work and made recommendations including confirming the remaining Investment Zones to provide certainty, digital inclusion funding, and utilising data better within Local, devolved and central government.

techUK’s Head of Nations and Regions, Matt Robinson, recently said:

“The NAO’s report is welcome and shows there’s a need to renew the commitment to ‘Levelling Up’ by funding and delivering on projects faster and more efficiently.

“One of the twelve Levelling Up missions was identified as digital connectivity but the tech and digital sector have an important role in others such as improving living standards, skills, transport infrastructure, R&D and well-being.

“techUK has in the past suggested the role for digital and technology is being underutilised in projects, especially projects that could be rolled out and have an immediate impact on jobs, businesses and skills. As our 2023 Index has shown the UK’s potential digital GVA boost is £4.8billion p.a., going to areas and projects that would meet the levelling up criteria.”

You can find more on the National Audit Office’s report by following this link.

Click here for the full press release


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Active Wellbeing 2024 – 1-29 February