Organisations encouraged to plan bids to the second round of the UK Government Levelling Up Fund

15 Apr 2022 Suzanne Thompson    Last updated: 11 Jul 2022

The UK Government has announced the second round of the Levelling Up Fund and has published a refreshed prospectus, inviting bids from all eligible organisations from Northern Ireland and across the UK

The Levelling Up Fund was announced at the 2020 Spending Review, focusing on capital investment in local infrastructure. Local residents across the UK will benefit from a fresh set of infrastructure projects with the opening of the second round of the £4.8 billion fund. 

The Fund will continue to invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life for local residents across the UK, focusing on regenerating town centres and high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in cultural and heritage assets. Over the first and second rounds of the Fund at least 3% of total UK allocations will be set aside for Northern Ireland.

Who can apply to the Levelling Up Fund in Northern Ireland?

In Northern Ireland the UK government will accept bids at the most local level, from a range of local applicants, including but not limited to: businesses, voluntary and community sector organisations, district councils, the Northern Ireland Executive and other public sector bodies.

When can organisations apply to the Levelling Up Fund?

The application window was expected to open from the 31 May 2022 until 12 noon on 6 July 2022

Update from The Northern Ireland Area Team for the Levelling Up Fund (July 1st, 2022):  There has been a delay to the opening of the application portal. Work is ongoing to open the online portal for the second round of the Levelling Up Fund. The application portal will be opened as soon as possible and, once open, will be live for 2 weeks for applicants to put forward their bids. They will update GOV.UK and this distribution list with the planned date for the portal’s launch at the earliest opportunity.

They strongly encourage applicants to use this additional time to develop their bids and make use of the range of fund specific guidance, webinars and technical teach-ins available on the website to support the development of high-quality bids.

Update from The Northern Ireland Area Team for the Levelling Up Fund (July 9th, 2022): There have been updated FAQ’s published for NI which can be viewed here.

Note below some specific FAQ’s that may directly impact your bid:

I am unable to obtain formal legal advice verifying how the bid complies with the subsidy control regime and/or State aid rules for interventions in Northern Ireland. Can I apply without submitting formal legal advice on subsidy control and State aid rules?

Yes, however bids must be supported with a detailed statement demonstrating how the bid activities will comply with relevant subsidy and/or State aid rules. Currently these are our international subsidy commitments, under the UK/EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement, and EU State aid rules continue to apply for aid that affects trade in goods and wholesale electricity between Northern Ireland and the EU. The latter is primarily of application within Northern Ireland but there may be certain limited circumstances where it applies in Great Britain. See guidance on our international commitments. The guidance is published to help public authorities to determine if an intervention is considered to be a subsidy in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Where applicants are applying for State aid they should identify which GBER provision covers the aid (i.e. training aid, or aid for local infrastructure for example) and how the project meets the conditions that apply. The statement replaces the need for specific questions relating to the GBERs. Although applicants no longer need to submit a formal legal advice we would still encourage them to seek specialist subsidy/State aid advice prior to submission. This approach has been reflected in the revised Technical Note and the LUF Applicant Guidance where questions referencing the GBERs have been removed.

There is no Northern Ireland Executive in place; do transport bids in Northern Ireland still need to provide NIE consent to pass the gateway assessment?

The published guidance states that Northern Ireland Executive support is an eligibility requirement for transport bids in Northern Ireland. In practice this means that support from the Department for Infrastructure via Pro Forma 4 is required for transport bids, or bids with transport elements, to pass the gateway assessment. Applicants should seek support from the Department for Infrastructure before submitting their bid. Please note this is not financial support, but support for the overall purpose and objective of the bid, and this may require the Department to outline conditions should the bid be successful.

We are submitting a bid for investment in an airport. As aviation is a reserved matter do we still need NIE consent?

Yes, support should be sought, in the first instance, from the relevant NI Department. However, if after consideration by the relevant NI Departments, the bid is not considered relevant to the operations or duties of those Departments, NI applicants are advised to tick ‘yes’ in answer to whether support has been obtained and must still upload a document in the online application portal to pass the gateway assessment, with the confirmation from the relevant Department that support is not required.

In relation to transport bids, or bids with a transport element, that require Department for Infrastructure support: Please send your completed proforma 4 to: [email protected] . You should submit this in good time to enable the relevant person within the Department to consider and respond ahead of the portal closing date.

The Levelling Up Fund prospectus and technical note can be viewed here, and supporting application guidance can be viewed here

For examples of previous successful projects, access the Northern Ireland Levelling Up Map and for further information e-mail [email protected] with specific queries.

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