A BILLINGHAM stalwart has accused government chiefs of “living in cuckoo land” after Yarm benefitted from a £20m fund while his town went empty-handed. 

Stockton South was successful in its £20m bid to the “Levelling Up Fund” with an overhaul at Preston Park, more cycle lanes and funding for a heritage centre at Yarm Town Hall set to benefit. 

But a request to revamp Billingham town centre’s western precinct using the cash was unsuccessful in the first round – sparking fury from some Stockton politicians. 

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Stockton Council is reducing the number of offices it has from 10 to two – with a new headquarters at Dunedin House, Thornaby, and a new office hub in Billingham.

Cllr Barry Woodhouse praised leaders for keeping the plan to bring a council office in Billingham.

But the Labour veteran aimed his fire on former minister Robert Jenrick at Stockton’s latest people select committee.  

“Hopefully in the next round of the Levelling Up Fund we get some money to improve Billingham’s lot,” he added. 

“I don’t often give credit to the opposition but I’m sure Michael Gove has more intelligence than his predecessor who thought Yarm was more in need of levelling up than Billingham. 

“Anybody who thinks that lives in cuckoo land.”

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Cllr Woodhouse added he’d be writing to Mr Gove about the bid so the offices could come “as soon as possible”. 

The authority has its sights on buying up the town’s western precinct to overhaul its “tired” town centre in a bid to deal with high vacancy rates hitting the area. 

Redcar and Middlesbrough also missed out on the Levelling Up Fund at the first time of asking.

Billingham also missed out on the separate £3.6bn “Towns Fund” allocations unveiled in 2020. 

Stockton chiefs have vowed to build a “rock solid case” for the investment for the second round of the fund in the Spring.

Government officials say awards were based on the content of bids submitted by those applying.

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said:

“The Government is creating more places that people are proud to call home by empowering local leaders, improving public services and regenerating our town centres and high streets.

“Bids were subject to a rigorous assessment process to make sure the Levelling Up Fund delivers good value for money. 

“Unsuccessful bidders have been offered feedback and will be able to bid again in Spring.”

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