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Good Law Project sends pre-action letter to Secretary of State over allocation of 'Levelling Up Fund'

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government is facing a potential legal challenge over the allocation of local authorities to different categories of the £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund.

The fund will invest in infrastructure intended to improve everyday life across the UK, including regenerating town centres and high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in cultural and heritage assets.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government maintains that it will prioritise bids from places in highest need. The published methodology can be found here.

In a pre-action letter the Good Law Project contends that:

  1. The defendant Secretary of State’s decisions breach s.149 of the Equality Act 2010 “since equality considerations do not appear to have been taken into account (properly or at all) when making the allocation decisions in the Places List and these decisions are significant in the LUF process and will inevitably impact the decisions on individual bids”;
  2. The decisions breach the common law duty of transparency and good administration, “in that the defendant has failed to make publicly available data said to be used for the purposes of the decisions in breach of its own commitments”;
  3. The decisions were irrational and/or in breach of the duty to have regard to relevant considerations and disregard irrelevant considerations “due to flaws in the criteria/methodology applied by the defendant in coming up with the Places List”.

The letter also said the claimant “expressly reserves its position to contend that the defendant’s decisions were tainted by irrelevant considerations/improper purpose, namely the electoral advantage (or potential electoral advantage) of the Conservative Party”.

The Good Law Project said: “The Budget confirmed ‘Towns Fund’ funding for 45 towns of which 40 are represented by at least one Conservative MP. And it introduced a new fund – misnamed the ‘Levelling Up Fund’ which plays the same trick again.

“But rather than using the Index of Multiple Deprivation or some other objective and transparent allocation measure, Government has invented a new, and troublingly opaque, set of criteria. Those criteria boost the funding prospects of wealthier towns represented by Tory MPs. And, once again, the Government has refused to give straight answers to straight questions about how they operate.”

The Good Law Project is being advised by law firm Bindmans.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “The £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund is open to all places in Great Britain and will play a vital role in helping to support and regenerate communities. 

“The published methodology makes clear the metrics used to identify places judged to be most in need. 

“It would not be appropriate to comment on potential legal action.”