New Lancashire levelling up fund will "kick-start" ambitious projects
The cash pot, which has been approved by cabinet members, will seek to unlock a raft of existing and proposed infrastructure schemes across the county by drawing in further funding from other sources.
To be known as the Lancashire Levelling Up Investment Fund, it will be designed to complement the government’s own agenda of the same name - and could be used to support district councils in making bids to the nationwide Levelling Up Fund.
Preston is currently formulating a £20m pitch for a package of measures including a replacement for the crumbling Old Tram Bridge, as well as investment in some of its flagship parks and new cycling and walking facilities.
Deputy county council leader Alan Vincent told a cabinet meeting at County Hall that he expected there would be “significant interest” from Lancashire’s 12 second-tier authorities in such an idea.
“We recognise that some of our district colleagues would find it difficult to produce match funding in certain cases - and that would restrict their ability to access further government levelling up money. This [fund] is aimed specifically towards making sure that that does not happen.
“Hopefully, it will open the door to more funding coming into Lancashire, [which is] something we all want to see, “ County Cllr Vincent added.
Papers presented to cabinet members stressed that the fund would “ principally support county council-led projects, as well as those delivered in partnership with both public and private sector organisations” - and would reflect the “Lancashire 2050” vision set out earlier this year, in tandem with with the basis for discussions with the government about a potential devolution deal for the county.
Members were also told that the boundaries of the fund would remain “flexible” so that it could be put to the most effective use and adapted in response to government priorities. The money could be accessed for developing business cases and feasibility studies or for purchasing land to allow the development of “key sites”.
Cabinet member for economic development and growth, Aidy Riggott, emphasised the importance of co-operation and collaboration if the fund were to bring to fruition schemes “which can only be done by us working together”.
His colleague, Michael Green, who holds the health and wellbeing brief, added: “If we want to attract investment and jobs into the county, sometimes there is a need to kick-start these developments, because otherwise they simply wouldn’t happen - and we've shown that we are able to do that as a county council working with our partners at the districts or [in the] private sector.”
The county council’s executive director of growth, environment, transport and community services will award funding to the chosen projects, in consultation with the authority’s finance and corporate services directors and County Cllr Riggott in his current portfolio.