Levelling Up 2023: Wirral miss out on £12m, PM’s constituency gets £19m in ‘strategically awarded’ funding

Wirral Council had put foward a bid in July 2022 to give Liscard town centre a “huge boost.”

Wirral’s council leader suggested levelling up funds might have been “strategically awarded” after Wirral lost out on £12m.

The government announced £2.1bn that would go towards more than 100 projects. While the North West as a whole got a bigger share of the money than some areas, cities like Liverpool and Manchester missed out and only two areas in Merseyside got funding.

Council leader and Liscard councillor Janette Williamson said she was “angry and deflated” Wirral Council had lost the £12m bid to fund the regeneration of Liscard.

Wirral Council had put a bid in in July 2022 to give Liscard town centre a “huge boost,” which is the second biggest in Wirral behind Birkenhead.

Reacting to the news, she pointed to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s constituency of Richmond which received £19m and said: “A cynic might say that funding’s been strategically awarded.”

The town centre of Liscard has struggled after years of gradual decline, further impacted by a recover from the pandemic and less footfall due to controversial charges in a nearby car park.

The proposals in the bid included improving shop fronts along Liscard Way, better routes for traffic, as well as cycling and walking paths.

If it had been granted, the regeneration work would have taken place alongside an Action Plan for the town centre which includes business and community grants.

This is what Liscard Way could have looked like under the plans. Image: Wirral Council

Cllr Williamson said: “I’m devastated to announce that Liscard was unsuccessful in its Levelling Up bid. We had ambitious plans to return our high street to a vibrant and community led space.”

Cllr Williamson added: “We wanted people to come and spend time and put money back into the community. They were really aspirational ambitions and to me that was what I thought levelling up was or should be.

“The government has never been clear in my opinion on what their definition of levelling up was. I’m a bit lost for words really when you look at some of the successful bids and the areas they’re in.”

Councillors previously said they were worried Liscard could become a “poor relation” to Birkenhead if the bid failed. Birkenhead received nearly £20m in the last round of levelling up funds to revamp the Woodside area and put in a new ferry terminal.

Asked whether she thought this was a reason why the bid was rejected, Cllr Williamson said: “I would like to think not. The Liscard bid was equally as strong and actually complemented them. Liscard is very much linked to that regeneration of the east of the borough.”

Cllr Williamson said a letter sent to the council confirming the bid was rejected didn’t say why, adding: “We will be asking what was it about our bid that wasn’t successful, are there other rounds of funding to come, and how can we improve.”

Press outlets also found out who was successful in the bids before some councils, something which Cllr Williamson said was “inexcusable.”

The government said written feedback would be provided “as soon as possible though due to the volume of bids, feedback will not be immediately available.” The letter also confirmed another round of funding would be announced with details announced soon.

She also said the competition to secure bids had become a “beauty pageant” and argued for a more “sustainable package of funding” for councils when it came to projects like this.

Cllr Williamson is hopeful more rounds of funding are to come and would be asking the council to make another bid for the town then. In the meantime, she wants clarification on why the council missed out because “feedback is vital.”

She added: “It’s not the end, it’s certainly not the end. It’s a huge blow to us but I will be continuing here to push for regeneration of Liscard both with the government and with council officers so that we do not shift our focus away.”

Across Merseyside, St Helen’s Council will receive £20m to invest in Earlestown’s historic market square while Knowsley will receive £15m to improve transport, sport and leisure facilities.