Knowsley Council and local community groups have voiced their outrage after receiving no money in last week’s Levelling Up announcement.
The Levelling Up fund has been set up to invest in local infrastructure with Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove claiming: “For far too long, the United Kingdom – England in particular – has had an economic powerhouse in London and the south east but not everyone has shared in that success.”
Knowsley is an area in need for this funding. It has the second highest rates of deprivation in the country, one in three children require free school meals with more than 40% of all children living below the poverty line.
Knowsley, however, has received no money while more affluent areas in the UK such as Bromsgrove which has received £15 million.
Levelling Up just a “slogan”
Leader of Knowsley Council Graham Morgan branded the levelling up policy as just a slogan.
He said: “Some of the most affluent areas of the country are still being awarded funding ahead of some of the areas which are most in need. What other conclusion can anybody come to?
“The funding allocations to date have been agreed in ways which just can’t be explained. In fact, the Government doesn’t really bother trying to explain.
“The people who actually work for the Government on these schemes can’t find any box which we haven’t ticked. So there is some other reason – a political reason – why Knowsley isn’t getting the support which local people need.”
Local groups such as the Big Help Project have also raised their objections.
The Project runs food banks in the area six days a week but is looking hoping to eradicate them, transitioning to Community Food Partnerships.
Spokesperson Kevin Pilnick said the situation on the ground is very bleak.
“The pandemic saw us busier than ever and we fed approaching 100,000 people during the first lockdown alone. We remain extremely busy.”
Food bank users are in work
He said a significant number of food bank users are employed.
He said: “We have had nurses, child minders and many supermarket workers who don’t earn enough to buy all the food they need in a week or month.
“This is often because of significant debt issues and we are able to refer people to our inhouse debt teams to address this.”
The decision by the Government has led to the Big Help Project to write to the government to ask them to reconsider this funding.
Kevin Pilnick added: “Knowsley is the second most deprived area in the UK and for that reason has lots of social challenges, like high unemployment and poor quality of housing. It was obviously disappointing that this was not better recognised by the government award of “levelling up” money last week.”
You can help the Big Help Project by donating food to their centres – locations opening times and types or food most needed are here
Donations can also be given at: https://www.justgiving.com/bighelp-project