The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland have expressed their disappointment that Northern Ireland has not been allocated any funding under the latest round of Levelling Up and have called on the UK Government to reverse their decision.
The UK Government yesterday (Monday 20th November) announced £1billion from Round 3 of its flagship Levelling Up Fund, "to spread opportunity, create jobs and revitalise local communities". However the projects set to benefit have only been selected in England, Scotland, and Wales. Northern Ireland was sidelined with zero allocation.
Speaking on the announcement, Chief Executive of the Foundation Róisín Wood said:
“We are extremely disappointed with today’s announcement. Once again, the UK Government is failing to provide appropriate investment for Northern Ireland. Organisations in the community and voluntary sector are facing unprecedented demands on their services, and at the same time trying to navigate cuts to funding with the pressures of ever-increasing costs.
"Organisations have invested heavily in preparing applications and proposals under the Levelling Up fund, and today's announcement will come as a further blow to the sector. The solution to the crisis in this sector will not be solved by more austerity, but by long term investment in organisations and services that work daily to change and save lives.
"We are calling on the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove to overturn this decision and to continue with this much needed investment in Northern Irelands businesses, charities, and communities.”
Following the latest funding announcement, DUP East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson accused the Government of "economic blackmail".
Mr Wilson said:
“This is an outrageous act by the Government. Under the cloak of economic blackmail, the Government has syphoned money away from Northern Ireland to shore up Conservative seats in England.
"Despite being entitled to 3% of the £1billion Northern Ireland has not received a single penny from this round of allocations despite there being hundreds of suitable applications in the system. Northern Ireland should have had an allocation of at least £30m today.
"The Government’s rationale for this decision is as spurious as it is outrageous. An absence of an Executive has no material effect on the allocations indeed, the principal objection in Scotland and Wales to the Levelling Up Fund is that it is driven by Westminster rather than the devolved regions.
"The Government should be honest. The real reason for this allocation is to direct more money into the marginal seats in Great Britain where the Conservative Party is struggling.
"Such is a scale of this pronouncement, applicants from Northern Ireland would be well entitled to seek a judicial challenge of the decision as the key indices for allocating funding align with Northern Ireland’s needs whether that is pay levels, productivity levels or skills levels.”