Easington MP Grahame Morris branded levelling up a farce after Durham County Council revealed they spent over £1 million on five failed levelling up bids.

A Northern Echo investigation discovered that seven organisations share more than a million pounds as Durham County Council sought expert advice on preparing and submitting the bids.

Despite County Durham being home to some of the poorest communities in the country, the Government refused to provide levelling-up investment to improve local housing, renew town centres or deliver new road infrastructure.

Easington MP Grahame Morris, whose Horden community were refused nearly £20 million in levelling up funding said:

“The Northern Echo’s revelations add insult to injury. Instead of doing their job, and delivering a comprehensive plan, targeting areas in need of levelling up, the Government created a competitive bidding process pitching communities against each other.

If a ‘Levelling Up’ Fund cannot recognise the need for investment in communities like Horden, the scheme is not fit for purpose. To be denied funding is bad enough, finding out that we paid £1m for so-called ‘expert advice’ that delivers zero return is an insult.

Durham County Council spends hundreds of thousands of pounds every year employing Corporate Directors, with teams of staff and officials. I thought they were meant to be the experts at engaging the Government to secure the investment we require to deliver investment and growth.

As a taxpayer, we have spent over a million pounds on expert advice, but the Council are refusing to tell us who they gave this money, refusing to name the organisations. This is outrageous. We spend millions of pounds every year on a Council Corporate Team, and when they outsource their jobs, we should be allowed to know who is working on our behalf.

This is a scandal from top to bottom, from Central Government to Local Government. We have wasted over a million pounds; money our community can ill afford when we are crying out for investment, regeneration and growth.

For County Durham levelling up is levelling down, costing us more than it delivers.”

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