South Ayrshire Council has announced a bid to grab £20m of the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund to go towards its £45m leisure centre.
The application for phase two of the Levelling Up Fund includes a category for town-centre regeneration.
Phase one winners were announced as part of UK chancellor Rishi Sunak’s autumn budget on Wednesday.
With neighbouring North Ayrshire receiving £23m for road upgrades, South and East Ayrshire, who are pooling resources to deliver a joint application, will be hopeful, as all three have been placed in the highest-priority category.
The council is working on a joint bid with East Ayrshire Council – with each authority able to bid for up to £20m in match funding.
Both can bid as the UK Government is using Westminster constituencies to allocate the funds, with the forthcoming application covering the Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock constituency.
While it is a joint bid, it is not required to be a joint project.
So while East Ayrshire Council is developing their element of the bid, South Ayrshire Council only requires to demonstrate that the leisure centre adequately meets the terms of the LUF criteria.
It is unclear how far down the line they are with this.
While phase two of the funding is yet to be announced, it is believed to be set for the next month or so.
Applicants need to show evidence of cost – benefit ratios and other specific details surrounding the project.
When asked whether they had met the specific requirements, a South Ayrshire Council spokesman would only say: “The council is developing bids based on the appropriate guidance and technical requirements of the Levelling Up Fund prospectus.”
East Ayrshire Council confirmed that they are still in the process of identifying potential projects.
A spokeswoman for East Ayrshire Council said: “As part of the phase two of the Levelling Up Fund, East Ayrshire Council is considering a number of capital project options within East Ayrshire’s boundary of the Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock constituency area.
“These options will be developed into a formal bid, in conjunction with South Ayrshire Council’s own proposals, prior to the UK Government deadline set at spring 2022.
There was a warning about a potential review of the way the UK Government decides which bids are successful.
Kevin Carr, South Ayrshire Council’s assistant director of Place, told the council’s leadership panel that both South and East Ayrshire councils had been working to the current guidance, meaning that there is no guarantee the bids would meet any amended criteria.
South Ayrshire Council leader Peter Henderson welcomed the move, but also raised concerns about the lack of information about phase two and the expected tight timescales.
He said: “Exciting opportunities, but I have great concerns about central government allocation that has been delayed again.
“The timescales are extremely tight from bidding to spending grant. I hope a degree of flexibility comes forward.”
The council’s depute leader, Brian McGinley, added: “I do think the Levelling Up Fund is a good policy and South Ayrshire is well placed to benefit from this, as it is an area that has been forgotten about for a long time.
“There are clear infrastructure needs for this community. I do share some of the concern about the operation and the timescale. Hopefully, some of those barriers can be addressed.”
By local democracy reporter Kevin Dyson