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Breckland Council criticised over Levelling Up secrecy

A Norfolk council has been criticised for refusing to reveal details of two multi-million pound projects for which it has applied for funding.
Breckland Council levelling up

A Norfolk council has been criticised for refusing to reveal details of two multi-million pound projects for which it has applied for funding.

Breckland Council has applied for up to £40m from the government’s Levelling Up Fund to pay for two major projects on behalf of its residents – but has refused to say what the projects are.

Terry Jermy, the authority’s Labour opposition leader, said the refusal was evidence of the council seeking “to avoid scrutiny and accountability”. 

Breckland said further information on the schemes could only be given once a decision has been made on whether to fund them.

The authority also declined to explain why it was not possible to provide details at this stage – when every other Norfolk council to have submitted bids under the scheme has said what they are applying for.

The two bids – for projects costing up to £20m each – have been drawn from the council’s ‘Future Breckland’ programme, a set of proposals to improve the district’s five market towns.

Mr Jermy said: “The withholding of this information in relation to Levelling Up funding is sadly yet further evidence of the Conservative administration’s culture at Breckland Council where it routinely seeks to avoid scrutiny and accountability.

“We’ve seen numerous examples over the last year where the council refuses to disclose information to the public so that their performance cannot be measured and their failures are hidden.”

One of the schemes is known to be in former prime minister Liz Truss’s South West Norfolk constituency, which includes Thetford and Swaffham, and the other in science minister George Freeman’s Mid Norfolk constituency, which includes Dereham, Attleborough and Watton.

Ms Truss and Mr Freeman have each given their formal backing to the bids in the respective constituencies. 

A council spokesman said some 22,000 people across the district had been consulted on the Future Breckland programme, which was signed off by the authority’s cabinet on Monday, November 21.

No discussion of the Levelling Up projects took place at the meeting.

The spokesman said: “We’re still waiting to hear if the bids have been successful and further information can be provided once the funding decision has been made by government.”

The bids have been made to the second round of the Levelling Up Fund.

Breckland previously made an unsuccessful £14.9m bid to the Fund’s first round, when it requested a programme of regeneration and investment in Thetford town centre.

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