NEWS / Blog / Flexibility on funding key to next steps on Levelling Up


12 JUN 2023


ACE’s Policy and Advocacy Officer, Andrew Gladstone-Heighton, reflects on the ongoing advocacy and recent report by the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee.

In ACE’s 2023 Policy Manifesto, released earlier this year, we called on Government to ‘reduce the use of competition, tendering and ringfencing when allocating funding to regions and places’.

With funding opportunities unlocked thanks to the National Infrastructure Bank and the levelling Up Fund, there are more councils looking to deliver levelling up projects and programmes than ever before.

Government increasingly sees our sector as true delivery partners turning the noise of levelling up into tangible change and improvements on the ground for their citizens.

But with resource stretched local government increasingly working in partnership with consultancies to deliver levelling up aims, our sector has a growing experience upon which to draw.

In its most recent publication on funding for Levelling Up, the House of Commons Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee has recommended to government that ‘Local authorities must be given the flexibility to use allocated funds in the most effective way they can.’

The Committee’s recommendation that the department for levelling up should move away from an overemphasis on bid and judgement-based funding pots, recognises the limitations of current funding models in meeting the needs of places across England.

Many studies indicate, including ACE’s report in 2022 on levelling up, that creating multiple, ringfenced competitive funding pots distorts place-based regeneration.

By shifting an area’s focus from its own assessment of its needs and opportunities, it sucks up scarce resources and discourages joined up thinking. Proposals that county councils and unitary authorities receive five year, needs based funding settlements for local transport infrastructure are a step in the right direction.

To get the better built, better connected greener places we need across the country, regions need capital linked to local investment needs and strategic plans. Relying on continued bids and competitive funding draws important resource away from strategic thinking, and leads to shorter term thinking to meet these bids requirements.

In recent months, the ACE has been engaging with the Department for Levelling Up, as well as the Government’s Levelling Up Taskforce.

ACE has also engaged with representatives at the Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the newly expanded North East Combined Authority to explore how the trailblazer devolution deals will lead to a ‘single pot’ funding model – moving away from discreet deployment of funding settlements for specific projects. The ACE policy team are also joining up this work with regular engagement with regional funding stakeholders like the National Infrastructure Commission and the UK Infrastructure Bank, to ensure alignment of purpose whilst representing our members voice at a strategic level.

International evidence suggests that levelling up is achievable if pursued through consistent, long-term policy that can survive changes of government. There is also a growing consensus, supported by the ACE, that regeneration strategies adapted to the characteristics of the locality (‘place-based regeneration’) is the only way to ensure levelling up investment actually makes a real difference to people’s lives.

We look forward to continuing our engagement with key stakeholders, both directly and through our Places Advocacy group.

To get involved in ACE's Places Advocacy Group, and learn more about ACE’s policy manifesto, please contact Andrew Gladstone-Heighton.


Find out more about ACE’s policy activity.

Andrew Gladstone-Heighton

Andrew Gladstone-Heighton

Policy Manager