Watford Borough Council has learned that they have been unsuccessful for the second time in securing £16m in additional funding from the government’s Levelling Up Fund.
The proposal, backed by the Mayor of Watford and the local Member of Parliament, would have funded a business innovation and incubation hub, the relocation and modernisation of the Watford Museum, and supported the restoration of the historic and world-renowned Watford Colosseum. The council’s bid for the second round of funding took on board government feedback from round one, which said that the bid was strong.
Speaking following the announcement, Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said:
“We were encouraged to bid in this round after the government said our first round application was strong. So it is extremely disappointing not to have been awarded this funding. It would have helped to unlock economic growth in the area around the Town Hall and drive further investment in our town.
“It is really frustrating that despite all the work that went in to strengthening the bid further by council officers and our local partners in the community, it was rejected again.”
The Town Hall Quarter Project, of which this £16m bid was a part, is a key ambition for Watford Borough Council and was supported by Cabinet late last year. Watford Borough Council’s budget, which includes the Town Hall Quarter as part of its capital programme, is due to be debated on 31st January. However a successful bid would have freed-up that funding for other capital projects.
Cllr Mark Watkin, Cabinet member for Property Resources and Customer Service, said
“We have always been clear that we can deliver most of our project through our existing budget and we will be progressing with those aspects irrespective of the outcome of this process. However, without extra government funding we won’t be able to deliver the maximum benefits of these plans. The decision will also have knock-on effects to other projects and may mean we won’t be able to deliver everything as quickly as we would have liked.”
The government have announced a third round of funding will take place and the council will be meeting with civil servants from the department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to discuss how to increase the chances of being successful in the future.
Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said:
“If the government is really committed to levelling up it would make more funding available locally so that councils can make their own decisions. The current system, where councils compete against each other and civil servants in Whitehall make decisions affecting communities they do not know, leads to disappointment and a lot of wasted effort for council staff and community partners.
“The current system does not work but while it’s in place we will, of course, continue to stand up for Watford and bid for funding where we know it will have a real and lasting benefit to our town.”