Spending watchdog hits out at Hawthorn Avenue cash delay
A PUBLIC spending watchdog has blasted "scandalous" delays in regional Government cash reaching projects including a scheme to redevelop a rundown area of Hull.
Hull City Council and Keepmoat Homes secured £8 million from the Government's Regional Growth Fund (RGF) to transform the Hawthorn Avenue area in the west of the city.
And although cash for the west Hull regeneration programme is currently undergoing "due diligence" – or legal checks – the money is still to be transformed into bricks and mortar.
The Government established the RGF in June 2010 to support projects with the potential to boost economic growth and jobs in the English regions, particularly in deprived areas.
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A total of £1.4 billion was allocated in two bidding rounds last year.
But a report from the influential Public Accounts Committee has blasted widespread delays.
Committee chairman Margaret Hodge said: "It is nothing short of scandalous that so few project have actually got off the ground."
Two years into the programme, only £60 million of the £1.4 billion allocated has actually reached frontline projects, creating or safeguarding only 5,200 jobs rather than the 36,800 envisaged when the RGF was launched.
An £8 million boost to redevelop the Hawthorn Avenue area was first announced more than a year ago as part of the RGF, but a decision to sign off the funding was deferred after doubts about the scale of demolition involved.
But in June this year, Hull City Council secured an agreement from former Housing Minister Grant Shapps to reinstate the funding.
Under long-standing plans, 224 privately owned homes dating back to the First World War are to be bulldozed and replaced with new housing.
There will be 1,475 new and refurbished homes, with £135 million of investment in the area over the next 13 years – including £9 million coming from the council and £118 million from Keepmoat Homes.
Hull West MP Alan Johnson said: "The committee is right to be critical.
"The delay in getting funding to those marooned in boarded-up streets in west Hull was scandalous."
Great Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell, who sits on the Public Accounts Committee, said: "Our report is a great disappointment, given the Government held high hopes that RGF would be a boost, particularly to the north."