Bedford council's hopes dashed of £15m ‘Levelling Up' funding for Kempston

But cash has gone to Central Beds

By Clare Turner
Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 3:10 pm

Bedford Borough Council's hopes of getting £15 million from the Government's Levelling Up funding have been dashed.

The cash would have helped in the regeneration around the Saxon Centre including improving the public area and making the area safer.

Bedford mayor Dave Hodgson said: “I am very disappointed with this outcome. The funds could’ve been used to greatly boost the economic vitality of the town centre, by regenerating the existing spaces and improving the walking and cycling infrastructure.

Saxon Centre, Kempston

"The Saxon Centre is one of the focal points of Kempston town centre and it is disappointing we were not granted the funds to regenerate the area.”

The Government’s Levelling Up fund is designed to combat regional inequality by investing in infrastructure.

Among the projects set out in the bid for Kempston were two foot bridges, cycle and footpath improvements - including street lighting - a cycle park, an e-bike charging hub and funding towards a new health hub.

However, neighbouring Central Bedfordshire Council, received Levelling Up funding.

Henry Vann, portfolio holder for town centres and planning, said: “There is a real risk that the Department for Levelling Up is becoming the Department of Letting Down.

"When you examine the allocation of funds across the country, it raises a lot of questions and I think the people of Kempston deserve answers and investment in our communities.”

Kay Burley, leader of Kempston Town Council and a borough councillor for Kempston, said: “It is a massively disappointing blow to people in Kempston that the bid has been rejected.

"Once again Kempston has missed out on much-needed funding. It would have been used to enhance the Saxon Centre, make a contribution to a Kempston medical hub, and to refurbish some roads and pavements.

"Areas of our town continue to deteriorate due to lack of central government investment. Hardly a budget for the 'new age of optimism’, for Kempston. However, we are continuing to discuss options with the portfolio holder.”

Sue Oliver, Bedford Borough Labour Group leader and councillor for Kempston North added: “It is extremely frustrating that yet again the needs of Kempston have been overlooked by the Tory Government.

"This is the problem with a system of bidding for funds rather than an ongoing, fairly divided allocation of money for our towns which would allow us to plan a steady programme of improvements. We will keep fighting to get our fair share.”

Mohammad Yasin, MP for Bedford and Kempston said: "Actions speak louder than words and this is yet another example of the Government ignoring the real needs of our towns.”

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesman said: “The Government is creating more places that people are proud to call home by empowering local leaders, improving public services and regenerating our town centres and high streets.

“Bids were subject to a rigorous assessment process to make sure the Levelling Up Fund delivers good value for money. Unsuccessful applicants will receive feedback and are able to try again in future rounds.”

Conservative Deputy Group Leader, Councillor Roger Rigby sais: “It is a disappointment that the borough council’s bid for Levelling Up funding in Kempston has failed. However we all realise these government funds are very scarce and not everywhere can be a winner."