Wirral regen projects ‘Levelling Up’ trial goes ahead

Wirral Council has extended a deadline to spend nearly £50m to give it more time to develop regeneration projects.

The deadline extension was the result of a government trial by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Wirral Council was one of ten local authorities that was invited to join the trial seeing it given more control over how it spends government grant money for regeneration projects.

The project intends to streamline government funding for local councils to help them “maximise their return on spending” and speed up urban regeneration and levelling up programmes by offering greater flexibility when it comes to spending.

At a Policy and Resources committee meeting on 13 September, councillors decided to accept the invitation to join the trial. It will now develop an investment plan setting out how the council will use the funding and provide information on different projects.

Wirral Council will also only need to get approval from the government if they are making a substantial change to any project over £5m.

Fast-approaching deadlines for some funding such as the Future High Streets fund have now been pushed back two years to March 2026 while the deadline for £19.6m of Levelling Up funding to regenerate Woodside has been pushed back one year.

Dave Hughes, the council’s regeneration director said that despite the extra time the council was “not going to sit back,” adding: “We have got a chance to make sure the projects fully developed to reflect the circumstances.”

Wirral Council was eligible for the pilot because it has received funding from three different sources including the Levelling Up, Town Deal, and Future High Streets funds.

Illustration of proposed public realm design for New FerryCredit: New Ferry Regeneration

This includes more than £70m of investment into Birkenhead as well as £3.2m for New Ferry improving the area following the 2017 explosion there.

Despite greater flexibility on spending, Mr Hughes confirmed funding for New Ferry would not move to Birkenhead or vice versa and were ring-fenced for those areas. It was also confirmed that any changes to projects would be reported back to councillors.

There were calls for more political oversight by the Conservatives but Cllr Jeff Green accepted that the council needed “to get things moving.”

He said historic projects had failed to regenerate Birkenhead and people were yet to see any changes on the ground despite the council receiving millions from the government. He added, “We need to make sure that people are engaged and involved in that and the improvements stick this time.”

Concerns were also raised by Green councillors about the effect of inflation on different projects since government funding was awarded. However, Mr Hughes said, “I am not denying there isn’t a problem but I believe we have got the measures in place.”

Image: Changes in Birkenhead town centre. Credit: Wirral Council

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