A minister has failed to commit to refunding Durham County Council for money spent on failed levelling up bids.

The council wrote to the government earlier this month calling for £1.2m it spent preparing five bids to be returned after they failed to secure finance in round two or three of the levelling up fund.

Leader Cllr Amanda Hopgood said officials were also told County Durham had been “removed as a priority one status area” before round three was decided in November.

The Northern Echo: Durham County Council Leader and Lib Dem Cllr Amanda Hopgood.Durham County Council Leader and Lib Dem Cllr Amanda Hopgood. (Image: Sarah Caldecott)

Those schemes that did win in November were made up of projects that failed to secure funding in the second round.

But the council claims it was left in the dark regarding feedback from the second round and before the latest announcement and called for the £1.2m it spent preparing five bids to be repaid.

Asked whether the government would grant Durham County Council’s calls Levelling Up Minister Jacob Young told the Echo: “We’re taking a different approach to the levelling up round three where it has been an allocative process based on previous bids rather than a new competition.

“I know that it’s disappointing that they weren’t successful in the latest round of levelling up funding but that doesn’t mean levelling up isn’t happening in Durham.

“We’re doing great strides in Durham whether that’s through the towns fund money that’s going to Bishop Auckland or the long term plans for towns money that’s going into Spennymoor.”

The five failed bids included plans to regenerate town centres, improve transport connectivity, and create new cultural attractions in Stanley; Horden; Newton Aycliffe; Willington, Crook and Tow Law; and Bowburn.

The Northern Echo: Jacob Young MP.Jacob Young MP. (Image: LDR)

Jacob Young, MP for Redcar, was one of seven new Tory MPs elected in 2019 present for a key post-election speech in Sedgefield when then-PM Boris Johnson said opportunity was not fairly distributed across the UK.

Asked whether he believed opportunity is now fairly distributed Mr Young said: “I think that we are fairly distributing opportunity across the UK.

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“We’re taking great strides to ensure levelling up is felt the length and breadth of the country and I look at places like Teesside and the amazing work that we’re doing there.

“We are really doing everything we can to make sure these places that have been left behind for so long, like Boris said in his remarks four years ago, we are bringing levelling up to them.”

He was speaking from Gateshead after a new round of funding for community and heritage assets was announced with three projects in the North East set to benefit.

Read Durham County Council's letter in full below 

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