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A call to action for Welsh Councils – Getting ready for Round Two of the Levelling Up Fund

With the first round of bidding for the Levelling Up Fund now closed, many councils will be pausing to draw breath whilst others will be starting to gear up to submit their own bid(s) for the second round.

By Ben Bostock · 12 July 2021

See this page in: Cymraeg

We do not yet know the exact timing of round two – but there are a few things we do know for sure. All Councils in Wales who are planning to make a bid in round two will be able to access £125k worth of funding to support them to bid. This can be used to access external expertise to support the development of the strategic and technical elements of the application. We also know that the total value of the Fund is £4.8bn and that distributing this will require multiple rounds of funding applications – but as with all things it is usually best to get in as early as you reasonably can to avoid missing out.

Mutual Ventures have supported a range of councils to make first round bids to the Levelling Up Fund and will be taking that learning forward in partnership with the Wales Co-operative Centre to offer support to Welsh councils bidding for round two.

"Start your thinking early – Even though we don’t know exactly when round two will open and close, it is never too early to start engaging with stakeholders and pulling together a long list of ideas."

Andrew Laird, Managing Director of Mutual Ventures

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Please get in touch if you would like to discuss how we can help – but in the meantime we have pulled together some of the lessons we have learned so far from round one:

  • Start your thinking early – Even though we don’t know exactly when round two will open and close, it is never too early to start engaging with stakeholders and pulling together a long list of ideas. Once the bidding window opens it will become more frantic and harder to properly consider all potential ideas.
  • Put together a really committed passionate bid team. This should have some internal leadership and capacity (people who really understand the projects under consideration) and can potentially be supplemented with external engagement, business case development and bid drafting skills (making use of the £125k support funding).
  • Do the “vision thing” up front – Understand the problem you are trying the solve. Identifying market failures (why has this idea not already happened?) and understanding the impact these are having on local stakeholders (communities, businesses, public services etc.) is central to a compelling bid narrative and identifying appropriate interventions. It can’t simply be a wish list of pet projects you’ve always wanted to fund! The bid must represent a single vision with a coherent set out expected outcomes.
  • Engage early with stakeholders early on – Strong bids require evidence of support from numerous stakeholders. Engage key stakeholders (Councillors, Members of the Senedd, Members of the UK Parliament, communities, businesses, local partners) in the process early to ensure they help shape the interventions. A successful bid for funding should be considered a huge win for a local area – but you can risk shooting yourself in the foot if the right stakeholders don’t feel any ownership of it.
  • Show how the Government money will unlock more funding – “Additionality” is a word we heard a lot during round one. It is critical that the money from the Levelling Up Fund is not where your project begins and ends. Successful bids will show how the Levelling Up Funding will unlock other sources of funding (particularly private sector investment). The more private sector investment you can point to the better your answers to the “Value for money” questions in the application form will be.
  • Balance ambition with realism – In most cases it’s unlikely that a single or limited number of interventions will act as the ‘silver bullet’ that address all the challenges facing a particular place. Identify the interventions that are most crucial in addressing the economic, social and environmental challenges in your area. Once implemented, these should act as catalysts and create the conditions for further investment.
  • Think about how to maintain the legacy that will created. Levelling Up funding is designed to create or improve impactful assets. Once the work is completed, these will require maintaining. Think about the future costs (that sit outside of the remit of Fund) that will be incurred and ensure that these are understood and manageable.
  • Finally, Understand the internal council approval process – We can’t stress how critical this point is. Your stakeholders, particularly senior officers and elected members will have a process for approving the bid. The Finance Director needs to approve it. This can take time. Make sure you plan this in!

We hope these points are useful and can act as a catalyst to start your own thinking and planning for round two of the Levelling Up Fund.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like some support. We would be delighted to get the ball rolling with a pro bono discussion to talk about your ideas and plans.