The government announced the second round of levelling up funding last week, and with only around a fifth of the 525 bids being successful, there were many disappointed council leaders.
If you were one of the unlucky ones, it’s important to remember that all is not lost. There are still plenty of funding routes out there and support is available to help you bring your projects to fruition.
Focus on projects, not bids
I’ve seen many projects being submitted for funding when they’re not ready, or not suitable for that particular funding scheme. This doesn’t mean that the project isn’t worthwhile or that it will never secure the funding it needs. That’s why it’s important to focus on the project itself and whether it meets these key points:
- Is the project rooted in a strong adopted vision and plan for the area that is based on economics?
- Does it have broad support from councils, other public bodies, the third and/or private sector?
- Is it clear how far the project will move the area along to achieve the economic vision and what its long-term legacy will be?
Smaller funds can help you unlock investment to get your bid where it needs to be, but the key is to begin detailed project development now and not to wait for the next round of funding to arrive.
Integrate public, private and third sector funding
Government funding isn’t the only option: a strong project that supports communities should also be able to attract commercial investment and support from the third sector. Narrowing the vision of a project to fit the constraints of a particular funding round risks losing momentum altogether. If you believe in your project, there will be options available to support particular aspects that keep it moving.
Eden Project Morecambe was successful in the latest round of levelling up funding but had also identified other funding from private and philanthropic sources in its bid. The £50m it has secured now enables it to move to the next phase and begin to finalise the remaining funds it needs. The government funding route was never the only option.
One Public Estate (OPE) funding will be available in October and can also be used to support parts of your project. Barnet Council has successfully used this to define the project scope in terms of its scale, economic impact, appearance, cost planning and so on to regenerate West Hendon, which will create a mix of social, private and affordable homes with a new school and community centre.
These projects show that it’s important to prepare for multiple funding options and shape a multi-purpose bid that’s rooted in an economic vision. A strong, robust and clear case for the project should have financial flexibility built in. My colleague, Robert Fleming, who has supported many councils to build a strong economic case for their regeneration projects, comments:
“Project design and development is key – that means identifying the project’s DNA and being clear of its core strengths and what it will achieve. Successful projects have consensus between a range of parties and communities at their heart. An important lesson is that well-conceived projects attract funding in their own right – this means good opportunities deserve to be pushed forward regardless of bidding rounds.”
Calling on external support can provide additional energy to drive change and keep up momentum, while also providing challenge when necessary. We’ve supported many councils to successfully secure funding and deliver multi-million-pound projects that have enhanced local communities. Get in touch to find out more about how we can help.
Discover our other resources to help local authorities with levelling up: