Concerns over future of projects with Government funding set to be cut

An artist's impression of the new town centre.

Concerns have been raised over the likelihood of North Yorkshire receiving its fair share from the Levelling Up Fund and about financing key transport schemes, following the government announcing its departments would be asked to make cutbacks to balance the budget.

North Yorkshire County Council’s finance boss, Councillor Gareth Dadd told a meeting of the authority’s Thirsk and Malton constituency committee, although bids for funding for schemes such as overhauls of Malton and Thirsk stations had factored in inflation, the cost of projects could soar.

Coun Dadd said: “While the authority might well be offered the grant funding from government, “I can’t say hand on heart that each of these schemes will look as they do even if they are successful. We have got to be realistic about it.”

Leading members of the authority have sounded the alarm six months after its £116m bid to improve public transport in the county was rejected in its entirety by the Department for Transport.

The meeting heard North Yorkshire councils had submitted bids to the government’s £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund in August that related to reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality, cuts in congestion, supporting the economy and improving transport for passengers.

Councillors were told the government was expected to make an announcement ‘in the political autumn” about whether bids including a £39.3 bid from the county council to improve access to Thirsk, Seamer and Scarborough stations had been successful.

Other bids to the fund awaiting decisions include a £19.9m plan to redevelop Malton station and a £20m bid to regenerate part of Catterick Garrison town centre.

The meeting heard as part of efforts to increase rail passenger numbers, cut car travel and carbon emissions, railway firms had been looking for sites in Malton to create a car park and the county council was examining how to better connect train and bus services.

However, councillors heard the government had stipulated to receive funding construction work on the projects would need to be underway before April.

The meeting heard the council had twice been challenged over the costs of the Thirsk and Malton schemes by the Department of Transport, and in particular over their “value for money”.

A senior council transport officer told the meeting if the Thirsk scheme was not successful in getting a Levelling Up Fund grant, it was at such an advanced stage it could be financed by other government funding schemes that may come forward.

The council’s highways and transportation executive member, Councillor Keane Duncan said: “I do think if the government is serious about levelling up the whole country it has to ensure that towns, like those in North Yorkshire, receive levelling up funding, not just the major conurbations. It is important we get our fair share of that funding.”

He said while the Thirsk scheme had been found to have a much better cost-benefit ratio than the other schemes, it had been packaged together with moves to improve accessibility at Seamer and Scarborough stations, and so they would “either all rise or all fall”.

Coun Duncan said: “We already exploring fall-back positions should that unfortunate circumstance arise.”