West Midlands mayor condemns ‘begging-bowl culture’ around levelling up funding

The Conservative mayor of the West Midlands has lashed out at the latest round of levelling up funding, saying it proves the Government’s “bidding and begging-bowl culture is broken”.

Andy Street expressed dismay at the decision to reject the majority of his region’s bids for the latest £2.1 billion of support for projects across the UK.

He joins a raft of Tory MPs who have voiced their disappointment at their areas missing out on the cash, as Labour accused ministers of corruption.

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In a statement, Mr Street said: “Fundamentally, this episode is just another example as to why Whitehall’s bidding and begging-bowl culture is broken, and the sooner we can decentralise and move to proper fiscal devolution the better.

“The centralised system of London civil servants making local decisions is flawed, and I cannot understand why the levelling up funding money was not devolved for local decision-makers to decide on what’s best for their areas.”

He welcomed the £40 million granted to projects in his region – half to revive a leisure centre in Rowley Regis and the other half to build new homes in Willenhall.

PA infographic showing latest money awarded from levelling up fund
(PA Graphics)

“But I am particularly concerned that the Government may have viewed our past successes — not least the Commonwealth Games and Coventry City of Culture in recent years — as a reason to reject the majority of the region’s bids,” he said.

He argued that current negotiations with the Government over several multi-billion-pound schemes, including the Midlands Rail Hub, should not “preclude us from winning money for some of our most deprived areas”.

Mr Street vowed to “continue to forensically lobby ministers” to “secure the big-ticket items that will transform the West Midlands in the months and years ahead”.