Rishi Sunak has argued that levelling up has been a success despite a new report which revealed that there have been "astonishing delays" on projects across the country.

During a visit to Newton Aycliffe, in County Durham, the Prime Minister said that he would "challenge" any assertion that levelling up was not working.

He highlighted investment in Bishop Auckland, £20m being given to Spennymoor as part of the Long Term Plan for Towns and the Ferryhill Station being re-opened.

A new report by the Public Accounts Committee analysing the flagship pledge to eliminate regional inequality said just over 10% of overall funding available has been spent.

The study found that of the £10.47 billion that must be used by 2025/26, local authorities, who are the recipients in most cases, had received £3.7 billion and spent £1.24 billion. 

The report states that 80 per cent of the round one levelling up projects will miss their deadline for completion of March 2024.

Mr Sunak said: "I challenge the assertion (that levelling up has failed) because when I am out and about across the North East, Teesside and County Durham I can see that we are delivering.

The Northern Echo: Rishi Sunak in Newton Aycliffe

"If you just look at what we are doing here we have just announced that we have levelling up investments into Bishop Auckland, Spennymoor is one of our beneficiaries of the Long Term Plan for Towns where the local community will be given £20m in long term funding for them to use on their priorities.

"Paul has campaigned very hard for Ferrybridge Station which is being re-opened thanks to the efforts of Paul and the department working and backing him.

"As a result of the decision that we took with HS2 £70m is coming to the local authority here to invest in local transportation.

"Those are all good examples just in County Durham, on top of Shotley Bridge Hospital, the new community diagnostic centre in Bishop Auckland.

"All of that will help with the healthcare they need.

"Those are all examples just miles from where we are sitting.

"If we go over to Teesside I could go on and on about what we are doing there as well. So actually we are delivering improvements to high streets and town centres, improvements to healthcare, improvements to transport, that’s levelling up in action.

"We have got great local MPs like Paul Howell who are making the case for their areas that were neglected for decades under the Labour Party that now under the Conservatives are getting the investment that they deserve."

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Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader and shadow communities secretary, said: "The Conservatives have utterly abandoned any pretence of trying to achieve their mission to level up Britain.

"This report confirms that the Tories’ begging-bowl approach to funding bids has wasted scarce public resources, forcing local authorities to spend previous time, effort and funds to bid for pots of money, many of which they have no chance of getting.

"Labour will start by ending the sticking-plaster approach peddled by the Conservatives and provide long-term funding settlements to local leaders, giving them greater certainty and the ability to plan for the long term."