The Leader of Rotherham Council has written to the Secretary of State for Local Government, two months after the Minister described accessing Future High Streets Fund cash as requiring only “simple steps” to ask why the money has not yet been made available.
Last year, after a detailed programme of development, Rotherham Council submitted a bid for £18 million to the government’s Future High Streets Fund. The money is intended to support the redevelopment of Rotherham’s indoor markets complex and create a new central library for the borough, as well as supporting Grim and Co’s relocation in the town centre.
On Boxing Day, the government announced a “provisional offer” of £12m. The council agreed to make up most of the shortfall in funding in its budget, set last month, if this is required.
At the end of January, the Minister wrote to council leaders and chief executives, saying; “I am very keen, as I am sure you are, to conclude this technical update quickly, so that we can confirm funding and ensure payments are made in good time.”
But at the end of March, there has still been no news on this, or the council’s Towns Fund bid, which is intended to support further improvements to the town centre, Templeborough and Eastwood.
Cllr Chris Read, Labour Leader of Rotherham Council, has said:
“We are now in the absurd situation whereby the government is asking Rotherham and other councils to develop bids for funding, with costed projects, faster than they can even sign a cheque they wanted people to believe was already in the post. A huge amount of work has gone into developing bids for this much needed investment in the town centre.
“We all want to get on with these improvements as soon as possible. But three months after they announced the money, we still don’t actually have the money.”
The delay has become more of a concern after the government announced yet another competitive bidding process, this time for the so-called “Levelling Up Fund”, with a deadline for first round bids in June.
But it has emerged in recent days that the funding intended to support the second stage of road improvements at Greasbrough has been subsumed into the Levelling Up Fund, leaving confusion about what the government is taking away in order to make this new pot of money available.
Cllr Chris Read has also said:
“It is absolutely imperative that the government now makes clear the terms and conditions for the so-called Levelling Up Fund. How will they assess the bids? Will other schemes have to be scrapped first? It seems that the government is big on making these announcements, but their inability to deliver the goods is deeply concerning.”