Salvation Army calls for government rethink over 'Levelling Up' Fenland

Liam Beattie leader of Wisbech Salvation Army

Liam Beattie, leader of the Salvation Army's Wisbech branch, believes that without 'levelling up' funding for Fenland's most vulnerable residents, they could fall "even deeper into social deprivation". - Credit: YouTube/Salvation Army Wisbech

The Salvation Army has called for a government rethink after claiming that none of the £4.8 billion funding for ‘levelling up’ has yet been received for Fenland. 

It found nearly half of the government’s £4.8bn funding pot designed to tackle regional inequalities has already been spent. 

The warning, which comes after Fenland was identified as one of the country’s most deprived areas that may miss out on the funding, follows the release of the government’s white paper on its ‘levelling up’ plans. 

Lieutenant Liam Beattie, leader at the Salvation Army’s Wisbech branch, said: “The ‘levelling up’ fund is a chance to invest in the people of Fenland that don’t want a handout but a hand up. 

“The people who come to us for help face a variety of challenges, but what they have in common is that they are struggling to support themselves and fear swells their hearts and minds.” 

The ‘levelling up’ fund was announced in 2020, with £4 billion of this to be spent in England. 

The Salvation Army has welcomed the government’s plans such as increasing opportunities, raising wages and naming Cambridgeshire as one of the new educational investment areas. 

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But it wants the government to engage with communities to see what investment is most needed and invest in skills support to help individuals out of low-skill, low-wage employment.   

“People who use our food banks, debt and employment advice services want to work but are often held back by things beyond their control,” said Mr Beattie. 

“Poorly paid seasonal work, lack of access to affordable childcare or just no opportunity to retrain when a large local employer shuts, can trap people and entire areas in deprivation.” 

Another point the Salvation Army wants the government to act upon is to reconsider how ‘levelling up’ money is allocated.   

“An equal playing field means reaching out to those desperate for help to make a better life for themselves and their children,” Mr Beattie added. 

“Without funding, these communities will fall even deeper into social deprivation.” 

Fenland District Council says it is preparing a bid for up to £20m for the second round of ‘levelling up’ funding for Wisbech.