Council issues plea over ‘flawed’ Levelling Up Fund status

Bootle Strand Shopping Centre

Sefton Council is urging Ministers and Civil Servants to reconsider the borough’s status when considering its new bids to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund.

Despite areas of Bootle being among the most deprived in the UK, Sefton has been placed in ‘Category 3’, the lowest priority for Levelling Up funding.

This means it will be judged alongside places like the City of London, Cambridge and Windsor.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and the City of London have both been placed in the top 20 of prosperity ratings for the UK by London-based think-tank Legatum Institute, while Sefton is rated 263rd.

Centred around Bootle and Crosby, Sefton’s bids are for a total of £30.3m and are designed to regenerate the areas, tackle local deprivations and support the creation of investment and employment opportunities in the two towns.

The Bootle bid is for £20m to underpin a major regeneration scheme to transform Bootle town centre, focused on The Bootle Strand at its heart.

Additionally, a large area of unused land alongside the Leeds-Liverpool Canal will be transformed into green spaces for local communities to use. This will support more healthy lifestyles and improvements to the overall the environment.

The investment will drive the growth of the night time economy, attract more visitors and drive inward investment from new businesses. This will enable Bootle to re-build after having been one of the boroughs hardest hit in the UK by the COVID pandemic.

The £10.3m bid for Crosby town centre will underpin a programme of regeneration ambitions of the local community set out in the Crosby Investment Strategy. The proposals will enhance the viability and vitality of Crosby town centre and support local businesses by helping to attract more residents and visitors.

Levelling Up Fund resources would also allow for a significant upgrade of the main gateways into the town centre, better pedestrian and cycle access and new electric vehicle charging points in car parks.

Sefton Council leader, Cllr Ian Maher, said: “Our bids contain exciting ambitious and realistic plans of what can be sustainably achieved with support through the Levelling Up Fund.

“As its name suggests this funding is for the purposes of levelling up, which is why we have focused on Bootle and Crosby where levels of deprivation are at their highest and people are suffering most from the current economic climate.

“We are fortunate in that we have already secured £37.5m of Town Deal funding for Southport, which we are using to support our delivery of a range of large scale projects to regenerate the town and its surroundings.

“These bids now focus on parts of the Borough which have the greatest need, some of which are among the areas hardest hit in the country by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Bootle had also been hit by news that the Government’s Revenue & Customs service and others were relocating out of the town and that Very Group were leaving nearby Aintree.

Bootle MP, Peter Dowd, and Bill Esterson, MP for Sefton Central, have written in support of Sefton Council’s bids. Peter Dowd said: “Bootle town centre’s economy has been severely impacted by COVID 19 and the relocation of HMRC, and includes one of the country’s most deprived areas in terms of health, employment, income education and skills.

“There is a pressing need for significant intervention to break the spiral of decline and Sefton Council’s decision to acquire Bootle Strand and put it at the heart of the town’s transitional regeneration programme is a brave and ambitious step. With support from the Government through the Levelling Up Fund this project will act as a catalyst for change and will help provide support at the heart of the local community.”

Bill Esterson said: “Sefton includes some of the country’s most deprived areas.

“Crosby has significant strengths and could, with the scale of Levelling Up funding requested, become an even more successful place where people can live, work, be educated and spend their leisure time.

“I urge Ministers and officials to give full consideration to this proposal, which could deliver transformational change and address many issues of deprivation and decline. It would offer support to the local community where it is needed most and help aid economic recovery and resilience, which is what the people of Sefton deserve.”

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