In 2021, Ramsgate was awarded £2.7m to support two projects to improve the centre of the town, and £19.8 million from the government Levelling Up Fund. In 2019, Margate was awarded up to £25m from the government Towns Fund for regeneration, transport and enterprise schemes.
These streams of funding were warmly welcomed and much needed but they have brought major challenges to TDC. Across the country, Local Authorities have had their annual funding from government progressively cut year after year, paring down their capacity and ability to deliver services. TDC has been impacted in this way such that, initially, there were great strains on the organisational skills and technical capacity to deal with demands placed on it by the influx of funds and the need to deliver to an imposed deadline. These pressures on limited capacity meant that there was an almost inevitable slow start and early lack of progress. Despite these initial delays, it is hoped that problems can be overcome as the project moves to the delivery stage.
In the time that has elapsed since the grants were awarded their value has been eroded by inflation, perhaps by as much as 20%, so that delivery of projects as originally envisaged has had to be reviewed.
These circumstances, not unique to Thanet, have brought about a recent ‘pragmatic’ change to the overall programme. TDC is one of 10 authorities which has been invited to take part in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) “Simplification Pathfinder Pilot”. The aim of the pilot is to give chosen local authorities greater ability to make decisions locally about moving funding between the projects in their portfolio, reduce ‘red tape’ and increase flexibility. It means that funding for Levelling Up projects, and the Future High Street Fund in Ramsgate, as well as the Margate Town Deal, will be managed as one £51m pot instead of three individual funds.
The new arrangements mean that TDC will be free to transfer funding below £5m between projects without reference back to the Government. It seems inevitable that, in order to stay within the overall fund allocation, priorities will have to be agreed and that compromises will be made along the way. There is a clear undertaking that there will be no transfer of funds, as awarded, between Margate and Ramsgate.
The Ramsgate funds total is £22.5m and you can see a list of projects included here.