Council and MPs to push for more levelling up funding

North Somerset MP Liam Fox as well as Weston-super-Mare MP John Penrose said placing North Somerset into Tier 3...

North Somerset MP Liam Fox as well as Weston-super-Mare MP John Penrose said placing North Somerset into Tier 3 restrictions is 'illogical'. - Credit: Archant

North Somerset and Weston's Conservative MPs have disputed claims they are 'invisible' after the area was placed in the second priority tier for Government funding.

North Somerset Council's deputy leader Mike Bell said he believed the district would be left behind after being placed in tier two of the 'levelling-up' scheme.

On his Facebook page, Cllr Bell said Weston MP John Penrose and North Somerset MP Liam Fox had 'let us down' and were 'failing to do their bit for Government funding' - which the MPs refuted.

Cllr Mike Bell.

Cllr Mike Bell has said North Somerset Council will make an 'ambitious' bid for funding after being placed in tier two of the levelling up scheme. - Credit: Archant

Cllr Bell said, despite understanding the difficulty of their jobs, both MPs have not been effective enough in Westminster to improve the areas they represent.

He said: "My concern is that they have been invisible and ineffective. Both Dr Fox and Mr Penrose need to stand together and be vocal to get a fair deal for this area.

"Weston town centre is within the bottom 10 per cent for deprived areas in the country. Time after time we have been let down with funding, with the exception of the Heritage Action Zone and Sovereign Centre funding."

Weston representative, John Penrose stated that the financial variation across North Somerset hampered Weston's bid for funding.

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Mr Penrose said: "‘The good news is that many parts of North Somerset are already too well-off to qualify for levelling up.

"But we also have pockets of very high need, particularly in and around Weston, so we are working on whether the rules of the scheme will let us focus our bid on them, independently from the rest of the district."

Sovereign Shopping Centre building

The Sovereign Centre in Weston will be a priority for any funding that is secured. - Credit: Google

John Penrose said it is in the best interest of North Somerset for all political parties to work together to help solve its issues.

He said: "Both Liam Fox and I are already working with the council to help the bid for Government levelling up funds. 

"Liam and I have been happy to take a cross-party, consensus approach so far, and would love to carry on in future too, but this kind of silly attack makes things much harder."

Liberal Democrat, Mike Bell agreed a cross-party consensus is the best-case scenario for the district - but reaffirmed his belief that more has to be done.

He said: "I am all for working together, I just want them to work harder.

"The support of our MPs is always appreciated, and I look forward to working with them both to convince the government they are part of, that we need access to levelling up funding just as much as communities in the north."

There is £4.8billion worth of funds available through the levelling up scheme, with bids made by tier one authorities given higher priority compared to tiers two and three.

Previously, North Somerset Council had bid for up to £10million worth of funding through the Government's Future High Street fund and the deputy leader Mike Bell believes a similar, 'ambitious bid' would be put forward for this scheme.

Cllr Bell added: "We will make an effort for funding, with one hand behind our back, to address immediate investments such as the Sovereign Centre and empty retail spaces in Weston's town centre."

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