All five County Durham bids for levelling up cash to regenerate town centres, improve transport connectivity, and create new cultural attractions have failed.

A total of six projects to support a major green overhaul of public transport throughout the North East have been awarded more than £100 million but the lack of success for County Durham communities is seen as a glaring omission.

The region is expected to benefit from a share of £20 million to modernise public transport across the North East but councillors and MPs say the county has been ‘betrayed’ after the oversight.

Several Labour MPs criticised the Conservative government for favouring affluent areas in the south over deprived northern communities in need of funding.

A total of £1.6 billion was distributed in round two of the levelling up fund, with £1.1 billion going to areas with a Tory MP. Around £475 million was given to Labour areas.

“This is a day to be angry, feel betrayed, and realise that levelling up is a lie,” said Grahame Morris MP for Easington, one of the most deprived areas of the country.

“The Levelling Up Fund is an appalling competition that pits communities against each other. This was our only option to secure the investment funds required for regeneration.”

Read more: North East receives £100m levelling up boost to support green transport overhaul

What did County Durham bid for?


  • City of Durham - Relief road at Bowburn to tackle traffic constraints, third phase of the Integra 61 scheme, and stabilisation works on the A690 and active travel measures introduced in the city centre.
  • Easington – Horden: New social housing and enhanced community assets including a nature reserve and woodland plantation.
  • North Durham – Stanley: Bringing town centre buildings back to life and improving public transport, improve traffic flow along the A693, and improve Coast 2 Coast route connections.
  • North West Durham - Willington, Crook and Tow Law: New community hub, improved parks, Multi Use Games Areas (MUGAs), event spaces, and a BMX track and skate park. Better infrastructure at Low Willington Industrial Estate, new and upgraded cycling and walking routes will also be developed between Crook and Willington.
  • Sedgefield - Newton Aycliffe: Town centre land and buildings repurposed to provide improved flexible space, a public transport interchange and reprovision of surface level car parking. New cultural attractions to improve the town's cultural and wellbeing offer.

Bishop Auckland MP Dehenna Davison is a junior minister at the levelling up department but Labour has questioned the methods in which funding was allocated. The town secured £20 million in the first round for transport improvements. 

Labour MP for City of Durham Mary Kelly Foy said: “It is incredible that despite Durham County Council submitting five bids which could have brought over £100m of investment in transport and regeneration to some of the most deprived areas of the country, the Government has determined that our county does not deserve a single penny of investment in this round.”

County Durham and Darlington Police and Crime Commissioner, Joy Allen, said: “I am absolutely staggered that County Durham, the largest authority in the North East has been denied of this vital regeneration funding.

“Residents will be both shocked and angered to learn that not one of the seven constituency bids in the force area have been approved, despite compelling arguments for financial support.

“It’s obvious some playing fields are more level than others and areas such as ours are handicapped by unfair funding formulas. This short-sighted decision robs us of opportunities to invest in safety and security measures to prevent crime, detect crime and pursue those responsible for it.”

A bid to regenerate Stanley town centre was rejected a second time, with officials not convinced by the council’s plans. Council officials hope to bring derelict buildings back to life and improving public transport.

Yet the town’s MP, Kevan Jones of Labour, said the county council was partly to blame.

“The Tory-led coalition running the council’s decision not to put the Stanley bid in the first round of funding was a mistake, which I raised with them at the time,” he said.

“Then to put five competing bids in the second round was a stupid decision, one of a growing number of misguided decisions the coalition have made since they’ve been running the council.”

In defence, the joint administration said the initial bid submitted by the Labour-led council was “not acceptable in terms of levelling up” and labelled it “another Labour vanity project”.

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, Durham County Council leader, added: “We are very disappointed to have not been successful in this round of Levelling Up Funding. 

“A great deal of work went into the proposals and we will be taking some time to carefully consider today’s announcement and explore alternative suitable future funding opportunities.”

The Northern Echo: Darlington Council plans to redevelop the Northgate area of the town.Darlington Council plans to redevelop the Northgate area of the town. (Image: The Northern Echo)

A separate Darlington Borough Council bid to add further investment to redevelopment plans in Northgate and the refurbishment of the Head of Steam Railway Museum was also rejected.

The town’s Tory MP Peter Gibson said: “Naturally, I am disappointed that Darlington’s bid was unsuccessful in this current round, although we must remember that Darlington has benefited massively from levelling up already."

Councillor Jonathan Dulston, leader of Darlington Council, added: “Clearly it’s disappointing that our funding bid has been unsuccessful – it’s not the news we’d hoped for. That said, this funding bid was always a long shot, given the significant investment we have seen in our town over the last couple of years."

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove denied that the relatively affluent South East is receiving more levelling up money than communities in the North.