With evidence building that so-called ‘levelling up’ money is being directed at places with Conservative MPs – and especially those at risk of losing their seats – you could not blame us for being a bit cynical about the rationale for the allocation of government funds.
Our senses are now finely tuned to pick up fishy whiffs from anything involving Johnson, Gove, Sunak and the rest so when we were alerted to the Brixham Fish Quay extension by the Better Devon campaign (which has a number of reasonable concerns about the proposals) we wanted to know more. We’ll let them explain:
“Devon is a fabulous place, but it needs looking after.
The bid being proposed to the Levelling Up Fund (LUF) to extend Brixham’s Fish Quay overlooks key sectors in our community that desperately need funding, seemingly without any consultation. It will also expand industrial Bottom and Beam fishing – at a time when the Government is signalling its intent to act to restore our depleted marine ecosystems.
Bottom and Beam Trawling is like driving a bulldozer through a national park.
Our area needs a strategy – a carefully thought through plan for improvement that prioritises need and looks to the future with clarity and transparency.
Instead, we have this secretive bid proposal riddled with issues and muddled thinking. It could be hugely damaging – to the community and to the environment.
You may well find that your own business, organisation or personal experience raises additional concerns about the bid and the way it removes funding and opportunity from other areas that desperately need them for ‘Levelling Up’.
First and foremost, the full bid application and supporting evidence needs to be made public for thorough consultation prior to submission. The closing date for bids is 6 July 2022 so there is plenty of time for the bid committee to respond, consult fully and transparently with the public.“Ed, at Better Devon
Better Devon have written to those behind the bid as follows:
Dear Proposers of the LUF Bid 2022, Brixham extension,
Our area is in desperate need of Levelling Up funding, with significant services across our community under huge pressure:
• Children’s services are in a poor state
• Crisis hit health care is collapsing under lack of support
• Cash strapped social care is barely able to function
• Critical tourist economy is struggling with multiple challenges
• Education is unable to support the most vulnerable children
• Local jobs are precarious
• The lack of affordable housing has become a crisis
• Inadequate public transport and infrastructure across the area
• The cost of living is soaring, driving families to food banks and into poverty
• Torbay has the highest level of deprivation in the South West
So, why is a bid for Levelling Up funds (intended to remove the barriers of deprivation) being made on behalf of a highly successful business turning over more than £41,000,000 a year?
Why is a low-value-for-money,limited public-benefit bid being prepared with little transparency?
This bid is quietly being prepared to apply for Levelling Up funding to pay for an extension to Brixham’s fish quay which will support greater numbers of ecologically-devastating Beam Trawlers and benefit very few beyond the quay itself.
Beam and Bottom Trawling is so indiscriminately destructive it has just been banned from four Marine
Protected Areas around the UK. On the West Coast of America, Beam and Bottom Trawling has already been banned in a last-ditch attempt to rescue fish stocks.
The Levelling Up bid will extend capacity to Brixham fish quay that will generate more congestion and pollution from freight lorries through town on already crowded and narrow streets, threatening the tourist economy and the health and wellbeing of the town. The business case for the bid is not clear, hugely costly (up to £20,000,000) and has not been made available for detailed public scrutiny or debate.
Better Devon opposes the bid and is in discussion with local groups, businesses and stakeholders also in opposition.
Transparency is essential when it comes to public funds- this bid threatens to remove up to £20,000,000 of funding that could go to other crisis hit areas of the local economy. We do not believe we should subsidise the destruction of our heritage, small businesses, public services and environment through the use public funds.
We therefore demand transparency on the bid and supporting evidence before it is submitted with the opportunity for thorough public consultation and opposition to be heard and responded to as is required by the bid submission itself section 4.2. There is plenty of time for the bid committee to respond and consult fully as well as consider other bids from Risk Assessment of critical local issues and services.
A letter has been sent to the constituency’s Conservative newbie MP(2019 intake) MP Anthony Mangnall and to Carl Wyard, Torbay Development Agency’s (TDA) ‘Economy and Enterprise Manager.
Dear Mr Wyard and Mr Mangnall,
I am raising my formal opposition to the bid to apply for Levelling Up Funds to extend Brixham Fish Quay and want you to engage with me on these issues as required by section 4.2 of the application bid. I would like my opposition and concerns logged in the application form alongside your engagement / non-engagement with me.
My opposition and concerns are attached and are the same as those raised by Better Devon, encompassing concerns over transparency, lack of detail and evidence shared with the public and stakeholders and concerns raised across Brixham and the area over a lack of communication on the proposed bid.
I would like a full address of these concerns prior to submission of the bid. Failure to do so would seem against the interests of transparency, engagement with communities and concerned individuals, and denying organisations and interest groups the chance to voice their concerns and have a say in what is being proposed.
I would also like you to confirm with me:
· That Torbay and Brixham Council have had full sight of the application and credible supporting evidence with opportunity to consider, consult and engage with the public using this information (bearing in mind I will be checking this).
· That you have consulted with stakeholders across the town and local area for this bid 2022 (bearing in mind that I am in the process of checking this).
· That all stakeholders are aware of the bid 2022 and the implications for them (bearing in mind I am in the process of checking this).
· That whilst assembling the following for the bid 2021 and this bid 2022 (please answer if each response is correct, and if incorrect, please correct as appropriate):
· Public and organisational consultations and reports on local impact, job creation and economic costs and benefits, Benefit Cost Ratio and Value for Money, financial risks. No such reports were published
· Environmental assessments in relation to fishing sustainability, fish stocks and how the proposal would meet Net Zero. No assessment was undertaken.
None of the above will be exempt as set out in Section 43 (Prejudicial to commercial interests) subsection FOI, so a simple but precise response to each of the above can be achieved without any issues around compromise of the bid or commercial interests in any way. The bid will need to be published in full if successful so cross-referencing could also be possible at a later date.
Please also could you answer:
· What is your definition of ‘transparency’ and ‘scrutiny’ in regard to this bid, its supporting credible evidence and its availability for scrutiny, bearing in mind responses to the above?
· Will you will be responding to and engaging with concerns from the public regarding this bid 2022 prior to submission?
· Who exactly has had scrutiny of this bid and what elements of the bid? this should not be difficult to answer or present any issues as no potentially sensitive information will be divulged.
· What other ‘shovel ready’ proposals were considered for LUF bids in 2021 and 2022?
I await your response.
So, you oppose the bid: what can you do?
Time is of the essence: the bid can be submitted anytime from 31 May so opposition and concerns
need to be registered right now. There is no time to waste.
Email the proposers of the bid and ask them whether the moral, business and environmental case
for this bid really matches up to what our area needs. Ensure your concerns are clear.
Ask questions, demand transparency and consultation. But above all, ensure you send your opposition formally, in writing, stating that ‘as per section 4.2 in the bid application I request that you engage with us fully and openly with evidence and assessments before submission of the bid, enabling our organisation tohave the opportunity to feed into the proposal and register objections. We expect you to try and resolve the concerns we have raised with you prior to submission of the bid.‘
The letter quoted above can be used as a template which you can amend and send (with your concerns added) to the bid application team at the TDA (Torbay Development Agency). Email your letter to firstname.lastname@example.org, Swithin.Long@torbay.gov.uk, email@example.com,
Please BCC firstname.lastname@example.org or just let Better Devon know you have submitted concerns and opposition for their outreach information.