Advertisement
Social Justice

A Tory peer received £330,000 to fix potholes from the government levelling-up fund

The money was awarded from the levelling up fund to fix a road owned by Henry Nicholas the 8th Viscount Gage, a hereditary Conservative peer in the House of Lords.

A Conservative peer has received more than £300,000 in payments from the government’s “levelling up fund” to fix potholes on a 7,500-acre private estate.

The £330,000 was awarded from the government’s Getting Building Fund to fix a road to the independently-run Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex, as well as farms and other business on land owned by Henry Nicholas the 8th Viscount Gage, a hereditary Conservative peer in the House of Lords.

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for levelling up, has written to Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove demanding he explain how the decision was made and what safeguards are in place to protect taxpayer money.

Subscribe to The Big Issue

From just £3 per week

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work. With each subscription we invest every penny back into supporting the network of sellers across the UK. A subscription also means you'll never miss the weekly editions of an award-winning publication, with each issue featuring the leading voices on life, culture, politics and social activism.

“When he announced the £900 million Getting Building Fund the Prime Minister said the government was determined to put ‘its arms round people in times of crisis…committed not just to defeating coronavirus but to using this crisis to finally tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades’,” wrote Nandy in a letter published today. “‘To build the homes, to fix the NHS, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK. To unite and level up.’

“Filling in potholes for a Conservative peer surely cannot have been what he meant.”

While Charleston Farmhouse is open to the public and owned independently, the road is “wholly private” and owned by Firle Estate Management, according to the funding application, providing “the only vehicular access into and out of Charleston and access to the dairy farm and cottages and two other businesses”.

Advertisement
Advertisement

The Charleston Trust applied for the funding with support from Firle Estate Management, according to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) accountability board, with the hope of increasing “audience numbers and encouraging return visits to our programme of events and exhibitions”.

The 87-year-old Lord Gage still lives at the nearby Firle Place country mansion with his family, according to the Firle Estate Management website, where he manages the estate and is an artist. His family has owned the land, which includes several villages, for more than 500 years and his wealth is estimated to be upwards of £15 million.

The Getting Building Fund is “being targeted in areas facing the biggest economic challenges as a result of the pandemic”, according to the government website.

Justin Madders, Labour’s shadow minister for employment rights, called the grant “an insult to all those MPs and councils and places who put levelling up bids in but had them rejected”.

Stop Mass Homelessness

Help us stop mass homelessness

Unless we act, the UK is facing a homelessness crisis 
this autumn.

The SELEP approved the first payment of £89,000 in November 2020 and the second of £291,000 in July 2021.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities told the Daily Mail: “Charleston is internationally recognised as a site of cultural importance and this funding will help open it up to more visitors and improve its contribution to the local economy.”

Firle Estate has not responded to requests for comment.

Nandy demanded the government “release the criteria on which this decision was made, and how decisions about the Getting Britain Building Fund are made more widely” and “provide clarity on what steps have been taken to ensure Conservative councillors on the local enterprise partnership weren’t lobbied and that taxpayer money was protected at all times.”

“Chronic underfunding of our roads, rail and buses is a problem for millions of us,” continued Nandy. “I hope [Gove] will be able to agree that government funding must be allocated fairly and opportunity spread far more widely than this egregious decision suggests.”

Advertisement

Support your local vendor

Want to buy a copy of the magazine? We have over 1,200 Big Issue vendors in the UK. Each vendor buys a copy of the mag for £1.50 and sells it for £3, keeping the difference. Visit our interactive map to find your nearest vendor and support them today!

Recommended for you

Read All
A basic income 'could cut poverty to its lowest point in decades'
Basic income

A basic income 'could cut poverty to its lowest point in decades'

The chancellor has made the Sunday Times Rich List - during a major cost of living crisis
Cost of living crisis

The chancellor has made the Sunday Times Rich List - during a major cost of living crisis

Why does inflation hit poorer people harder?
Inflation

Why does inflation hit poorer people harder?

Donations are down and customers are up - food banks say they are at crisis point
Food banks

Donations are down and customers are up - food banks say they are at crisis point

Most Popular

Read All
Homeless man who built wooden house on pavement: 'People understand I'm just in a bad situation'
1.

Homeless man who built wooden house on pavement: 'People understand I'm just in a bad situation'

The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who
2.

The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who

Exclusive: The UK's rarest and most threatened wildlife sites are not being protected properly
3.

Exclusive: The UK's rarest and most threatened wildlife sites are not being protected properly

Martin Lewis: 'The link between money problems and mental health problems is just so strong'
4.

Martin Lewis: 'The link between money problems and mental health problems is just so strong'

Keep up to date with The Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.