The UK Chancellor has announced a new £4bn ($5.3bn) fund to finance local community projects across England.
Rishi Sunak announced the new “Levelling Up” fund in the government’s spending review statement on Wednesday.
Local communities will be able to bid directly for funding for projects in their area. The fund will be favour “places in need, those facing particular challenges, and areas that have received less government investment in recent years,” according to the Treasury.
“People want to be able to look around their towns and villages and say yes, our community, this place, is better off than it was 5 years ago,” the chancellor said.
“This is about funding the infrastructure of everyday life — a new bypass, upgraded railway stations, less traffic, more libraries, museums and galleries, better high streets and town centres.”
The announcement came as the chancellor set of government departmental spending for the year ahead and warned that the “economic emergency” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic was only just beginning.
WATCH: UK economy to shrink 11.3% this year - as Rishi Sunak commits nearly £300bn to COVID crisis
Projects “must have real impact” to win funding, Sunak said. They must also be deliverable within the current parliament and have the support of the local community, including an area’s local MP.
Some £4bn will be allocated for England, with an additional £800m earmarked for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland under the Barnet formula. The fund will be jointly managed by the Treasury, the Department for Transport, and Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government.
The Treasury promised to publish more details on how the fund will work in the new year.
The new fund forms part of the government’s ambition to “level up” the UK’s underperforming regions, a key pledge made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during last year’s election.
Alongside the new fund, Sunak announced the creation of a new UK Infrastructure Bank that will work with the private sector to secure funding for projects in neglected and underperforming areas. The bank will be headquartered in the north of England.