The Levelling Up Fund is a £4.8 billion programme launched by the UK government to invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK. This includes regenerating town centres and high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in cultural and heritage assets. The fund aims to support communities that have been left behind, particularly as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fund has awarded £3.8 billion to 216 projects in total over two rounds of funding, with the first round announced in October 2021 and the second round announced in January 2023. The fund covers England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and each nation has a different allocation based on population and need.
So far, the fund has supported a variety of projects, such as:
- A new bus station and public realm improvements in Bolton
- A new cultural quarter and heritage centre in Colchester
- A new railway station and park-and-ride facility in St Clears, Carmarthenshire
- A new visitor centre and museum at the Giant's Causeway, County Antrim
Can UK councils still apply for levelling up funding?
The second round of applications closed on midday on 2 August 2022. The fund is expected to be spent by 31 March 2024, with some exceptions for larger schemes. Some local authorities have postponed their bids to round 3 due to the tight timeframe and complexity of their projects. The deadline for round 3 of the levelling up fund application has not been announced yet.
To apply for funding, councils need to follow these steps:
- Identify a priority project that meets the fund's criteria and objectives
- Consult with local stakeholders, including MPs, businesses, and community groups
- Prepare a business case that demonstrates the project's value for money, deliverability, and strategic fit
- Submit the application online via the Levelling Up Fund portal
The government has published a prospectus that provides detailed guidance on how to apply for funding, as well as an interactive map that shows the priority areas and existing projects. The government has also set up a dedicated email address (email@example.com) for any queries or feedback. For frequently asked questions published by the Government click here
Transforming for a digital future
To support levelling up one of the key objectives of government is to improve digital connectivity and skills in areas that are lagging behind. The Transforming for a digital future:2022 to 2025 roadmap recognises that levelling up and other priorities could be delivered more quickly and more effectively through wider use of digital and data.
Local authorities can apply for funding for digital transformation projects that will enhance public services, boost productivity, and create jobs.
Further sources of funding
One possible source of funding for local authorities for digital transformation is the Local Digital Fund, which aims to help local authorities implement the Local Digital Declaration by funding digital skills training and projects that address common local service challenges in common, reusable ways. The fund was introduced in July 2018 by the then UK Local Government Minister, Rishi Sunak, of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). Since then, DLUHC has awarded over £16 million of funding to 60 council-led projects.
Another possible source of funding is the Digital Transformation in Local Government programme by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), which offers a diverse range of technology agreements to help with everything your council needs for its digital transformation journey – from consultancy through to design, delivery and implementation. The programme also supports councils to achieve carbon net zero by 2050.
A third possible source of funding is the Digital Tools and Data Standards Fund, which was announced in June 2021 by Housing Minister Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP. The fund provides £1.1 million to test the use of digital tools and data standards across 10 local areas, as part of the planning white paper ‘Planning for the future’
However, they may face challenges in designing and delivering such projects, because of the lack expertise, resources, or evidence.
Advanced’s 30 years’ experience working with the public sector can play a vital role in providing local authorities with their back-office software and IT digital transformation projects. By offering:
- Solutions that can help local authorities to deliver and implement digital strategies and roadmaps
- Data and analytics that can help local authorities to measure and demonstrate the impact and benefits of digital transformation projects
- Systems that can help local authorities to build digital capabilities and skills among their staff and stakeholders
The Levelling Up Fund is a unique opportunity for UK councils to secure funding for projects that can make a real difference to their communities. However, with only one round of funding left and a deadline yet unpublished, councils need to act quickly and prepare high-quality applications that showcase their vision and ambition for levelling up.
By partnering with Advanced, local authorities can drive efficiencies and access meaningful data to gain insight which will help identify further cost savings and areas for improvement, resulting in a positive difference to their communities. Click here for more information