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Town Partnerships: the government announces a new £1.1bn regeneration initiative for 55 towns

03 October 2023

On 1 October 2023, the government announced 55 towns in the UK will each receive £20m to invest in local regeneration priorities over a 10 year term.  Public authorities will be the accountable bodies for this public funding which will be allocated by Town Boards, newly established decision making bodies consisting of local employers, community representatives, councils and MPs.   In this article, Jonathan Branton and Alexander Rose of DWF answer the main questions about this latest regeneration initiative. 

What is the 'Long Term Plan for Towns'?

The Long Term Plan for Towns is a regeneration initiative to support improvements to towns in the UK focussing upon two main themes; a 10 year commitment of funding and the creation of new local decision making bodies (Town Boards, which shall involve people from local communities working with central and local government representatives to identify regeneration priorities).

To launch this initiative the government has announced the allocation of £1.1bn of public funding to help regenerate 55 towns. Each town will receive a 10-year endowment-style fund with £20 million of funding and support. 

Public authorities are tasked with bringing local partners together to form the Towns Boards (or to expand existing Town Deal Boards, where these exist) and start the process of setting out a long-term vision based on local priorities in order to create the 10 year Town Plan.  Each Town Plan should be finalised no later than Summer 2024.

Why has the government chosen to focus upon towns?

Towns play a central role in UK life.  According to the guidance, towns rather than cities are home to 56% of the UK Population and 52% of UK jobs.  In recent years, many towns, particularly in more disadvantaged parts of the country, have suffered varying economic and social problems.  This initiative is focussed upon addressing these problems.

What is a Town Board?

A Town Board will be a decision making body which will "include community groups, MPs, businesses, cultural and sports organisations, public sector agencies and local authorities for each town".

Each Town Board will require its own governance structure and have a duty to engage with local people to devise a long term regeneration plan.   This long term plan will be assessed by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities as part of the process of releasing funding.

What kinds of projects will the £20m Town Partnership grant support?

Each Town Board will have significant discretion as to the types of intervention which might be funded using the £20m.  The guidance suggests the following examples of interventions: 

  • improving transport and connections to make travel easier for residents and increase visitor numbers in centres to boost opportunities for small businesses and create jobs;
  • tackling crime and anti-social behaviour to keep residents safe and encourage visitors through better security measures and hotspot policing; and  
  •  enhancing town centres to make high streets more attractive and accessible, including repurposing empty shops for new housing, creating more green spaces, cleaning up streets or running market days.  

Based on the above the fund should be expected to support the same sorts of typical regeneration programmes as arte found in Levelling Up Fund programmes and other similar localised regeneration plans to attract investment and create jobs, deliver vital new infrastructure, address particular shortages and help restore pride in place.  What normally holds such projects back in more disadvantaged areas is a variety of viability gap difficulties hence the need for public funding to unlock delivery.

What is the Towns Taskforce?

The Towns Taskforce is a unit of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities which supports the delivery of the Town Partnerships.  In particular, the Towns Taskforce will aim to:

  • oversee good governance and delivery and help address any problems that arise;
  • support towns to unlock investment and public support;
  • make it easier for towns to repurpose empty high street shops by reforming licensing rules and supporting more housing in town centres; and
  • look to attract private and philanthropic investment into the 55 towns, championing the investment opportunities to building on the endowment-style funding granted.

The Towns Taskforce will report directly to the Secretary for State for Levelling Up and the Prime Minister.

Which towns will benefit from the £1.1bn Town Partnerships funding?

In total, 55 towns will benefit from the first round of the Town Partnerships, including 7 towns in Scotland and 4 in Wales, these are:

  • Mansfield 
  • Boston 
  • Worksop 
  • Skegness 
  • Newark-on-Trent 
  • Chesterfield 
  • Clifton (Nottingham) 
  • Spalding 
  • Kirkby-in-Ashfield 
  • Clacton-on-Sea 
  • Great Yarmouth 
  • Eston 
  • Jarrow 
  • Washington 
  • Blyth (Northumberland) 
  • Hartlepool 
  • Spennymoor 
  • Darwen 
  • Chadderton 
  • Heywood 
  • Ashton-under-Lyne 
  • Accrington 
  • Leigh (Wigan) 
  • Farnworth 
  • Nelson (Pendle) 
  • Kirkby 
  • Burnley 
  • Hastings 
  • Bexhill-on-Sea 
  • Ryde 
  • Torquay 
  • Smethwick 
  • Darlaston 
  • Bilston (Wolverhampton) 
  • Dudley (Dudley) 
  • Grimsby 
  • Castleford 
  • Doncaster 
  • Rotherham 
  • Barnsley 
  • Scunthorpe 
  • Keighley 
  • Dewsbury 
  • Scarborough 
  • Merthyr Tydfil 
  • Cwmbrân 
  • Wrexham 
  • Barry (Vale of Glamorgan) 
  • Greenock 
  • Irvine 
  • Kilmarnock 
  • Coatbridge 
  • Clydebank 
  • Dumfries 
  • Elgin

The guidance is clear that this is the first round of Town Partnership funding, opening the door for other towns to receive support in due course.

What compliance safeguards will be applied to the funding?

The revenue and capital funding will be awarded to the local public authority, acting as accountable body on behalf of the Town Board.  Town Boards will need to be properly constituted to assure good governance and respect for the purpose and objectives of the fund.

It is understood that the recently published  Levelling Up Funds Local Authority Assurance Framework will apply to this funding, meaning that the Chief Finance Officer will be required to provide assurance updates around the proper administration of the funding, including in regard to conflict of interest, subsidy control, procurement, counter fraud and risk.  

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities internal audit team will carry out independent checks on projects, with their inspections subject to review by the Government Internal Audit Agency.  

Does this funding replace the third round of the Levelling Up Fund?

The government has not stated that this funding replaces the third round of the Levelling Up Fund, although it has been noted that the value of this regeneration funding is similar, as is much of the methodology.

It also appears not dissimilar to some other recent DLUHC funding programmes, especially Levelling Up Partnership awards, Towns Deal awards and the Future High Streets Fund. 


The 55 towns which will benefit from the Town Partnerships will rightly be celebrating securing an additional £20m of investment.  However, the reception for this funding is likely to be rather different if it transpires that this funding serves to replace the £1bn which is due to be made available through the third round of the Levelling Up Fund and for which there remains considerable interest and anticipation.

Furthermore, the structure of the funding suggests that the government has still to decide which is the most effective route to deliver long term regeneration projects.  Under the Town Partnerships, decisions will be made through local boards, with responsibility for compliance resting with accountable bodies.  In many ways this structure has echoes of Local Enterprise Partnerships, which the government decided to bring to an end in August.

Finally, the decision to recognise the economic contribution of towns is to be welcomed. Since the 2008 financial crisis, employment growth in towns has been slower than cities outside of London (14%) and other out-of-town areas (20%).  Using data, the government has identified a need, but also an opportunity, to spur economic growth using targeted public funding.  Securing the funding in this way however is only the first step.  While some towns may already have some "oven ready" schemes that are ready to go at short notice, for example with planning already secured, but most will need significant work to be done in each case to work up a planned programme.  Those plans will each need to be approved and then to be implemented step by step, all of which requires careful attention to detail and risk management at every turn. 

DWF is a legal services business with an exceptional reputation for its advice upon matters involving public funding.  If you have received public funding or are applying for public funding then we can assist you to meet your legal requirements.

Further Reading