Local Authorities: what next if you’ve been successful in your Levelling Up Fund Round 2 bid?

Councils recently learnt if their Levelling Up Fund Round 2 bid was successful. If it was, David Atkinson explains how time is now of the essence.

Being successful in Levelling Up Fund Round 2 is a fantastic reward for a huge amount of work that has gone into the bidding process. Yet, the clock is ticking. The project the funding is allocated for needs to be complete by March 2025, otherwise the money could go straight back to Whitehall.

So, what are the next steps to ensure you translate your Levelling Up funding success into a project delivering growth and prosperity to your region. Here are five recommendations:

  1. Develop a comprehensive business case

You have a winning bid, the next step is now to develop that into a fully-fledged business case. It’s important to ensure that this business case goes through thorough internal review with all stakeholders before being put forward, so that commitments and timelines are realistic. The business case should be as much about satisfying the project sponsor’s confidence in delivering the project and managing their own financial exposure, as well as satisfying government.

The government’s HM Treasury Green Book and HM Treasury Guide To Developing The Project Business Case are good resources for guidance on this.

Once the business case has been approved, the project proper can begin.

  1. Get your project shovel ready rapidly

A key caveat of Levelling Up funding is the rapid turnaround time. Successful bids have until just March 2025 to complete their projects, so it’s useful to have a focus on a streamlined process.

Owing to the short timescales for the winning projects, the initial incubation period of design, planning and delivery should be achieved as quickly as professionally possible. You will need to mobilise professional teams almost immediately.

It’s likely that to achieve project completion in the timeframe, local authorities will need to run the initial stages of the project – submission of planning, technical assessments, procurement of contractor - in parallel rather than in sequence.

In sequence this process can take up to a year, or longer in some examples, with a large portion of that time being spent in procuring a contractor – so starting the procurement process in parallel to planning, as close to immediately as possible, is recommended. This will de-risk a potential contractor’s capacity to deliver and allow for extra time on construction.

  1. Commence legal & commercial negotiations

Where your scheme includes other users, it is likely you will need to agree to commercial and lease terms with the respective parties. This can often be a time-consuming process and so starting that alongside developing your planning submission would be key. Willmott Dixon can support in this regard, be it through acquiring land or securing commercial terms with future tenants of the building. This will not only ensure a robust business case but will ensure any specific design requirements are picked up with the end users direct.

  1. Be flexible on procurement

It's worth being flexible with procurement. Getting returns to open tenders can be challenging in the current climate. Be aware of contractor capacity when working on procurement: many local authorities who won funding did so in areas with historically less construction projects, where the capacity of some regional and national contractors may be reduced in a particular geographic location.

  1. Consider using a procurement framework

As such, it could be advisable to consider going through a well-established framework. Doing so will reduce the time on the procurement process by several months, meaning contractors will be in a better position to deliver on projects against the tight timeline. Consider also that many winning bids could be mixed-use, and frameworks will allow for cross-industry expertise on these areas.

David is head of land and development at Willmott Dixon Development Solutions, which offers business case advice, design, planning and delivery services, and has long experience working with local authorities on rapid turnaround projects. We also work with all the major UK frameworks. If you’ve just won a bid and are looking for some next steps guidance, speak to our team today.