Tories have regions competing “Hunger Games-style” for funding, Nandy says

Katie Neame

Lisa Nandy has accused ministers of forcing different areas of the country to compete “Hunger Games-style” for ‘levelling up’ funding following the publication of a report criticising the government’s record on local economic growth.

In an interview with Sky News this morning, the Shadow Levelling Up Secretary highlighted the report published yesterday by the public accounts committee, which concluded that “despite billions spent on local growth policies over many years, the government still does not have a strong understanding of what works”.

Nandy described the report as “very damning” and said it showed the government had “squandered billions and billions of pounds of our money” on “small pots of cash that are being doled out around that country that we have to compete for Hunger Games-style in order to try and spruce up our high streets”.

The Labour frontbencher argued: “The reason high streets are struggling, the reason town centres are struggling is because people haven’t got money in their pockets.”

She said there were “short-term measures” the government could introduce to alleviate pressures on household budgets, including heeding Labour’s calls for an emergency Budget and scrapping the increase in National Insurance contributions.

But she argued that, in the long term, the government must focus on investing into the regions in order to create good jobs: “We’ve gotta get good jobs back into parts of the country that have seen them bleed out of our communities for the last 40 years. There is no substitute for it.”

She added that government decisions including cancelling Northern Powerhouse Rail and scrapping parts of HS2 were “short-sighted” because they would harm private sector investment and economic growth.

The public accounts committee report concluded that local authorities have faced a “confusion of different funding pots” and been forced to “respond piecemeal to each new announcement” in recent years.

The report called for “greater certainty” to enable local authorities to plan and “deliver the right investments that make a difference in their areas”.

Committee chair Meg Hillier said: “Without clear parameters, plans or measures of success it’s hard to avoid the appearance that government is just gambling taxpayers money on policies and programmes that are little more than a slogan, retrofitting the criteria for success and not even bothering to evaluate if it worked.”

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: “The first round of the levelling-up fund is delivering vital investment to communities across the UK that have for too long been overlooked and undervalued.

“The assessment process was transparent, robust and fair, and the criteria included the need for projects to be deliverable and to fuel regeneration and growth to level up areas most in need.”

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