Bath Voice News: a Freedom of Information request discovered the reason why BANES didn’t get £20m Levelling Up Funding

By John Wimperis, Local Democracy Reporter: A government document has revealed the reasons why Bath’s bid for Levelling Up funding was turned down.

Bath and North East Somerset Council applied for £20m from the government scheme to help fund Bath Fashion Museum’s move to a new premises and to set up a new fashion collection archive at Locksbrook.

But instead of £20m, the council received two and a half A4 pages of feedback from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities explaining why the bid was turned down.

The Fashion Museum had to leave its home at the Assembly Rooms at the end of October, after the National Trust who own the building decided to use it for their own project.

The council announced a £37m project to turn the Old Post Office on New Bond Street into a new site for the museum but the future of the project was plunged into doubt after the government turned down the bid, leaving the project mostly unfunded and setting back the museum’s reopening by years.

Now the government’s feedback been obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service through a freedom of information request.

The document reveals that the government considered the council’s plans “relatively strong” and in keeping with the aims of levelling up, but it was turned down as there was not enough data behind some parts of the plan.

Council leader Kevin Guy slammed the funding process as “deeply flawed.”

According to figures obtained by Reach Data Unit, it cost the council almost £55k to put the bid together, bringing in various external consultants. In total, councils across the country spent £23.4m on bidding for Levelling Up funding.

Although Bath and North East Somerset Council’s bid was turned down, the government feedback stated: “This was a relatively strong bid, particularly the strategic case which made clear connections between government policy and the project, including through a detailed theory of change.

“However, the value for money and deliverability cases could have been stronger, for example by expanding on the range of data available.”

More Bath-specific data was needed, the feedback said. Decline in footfall and increasing vacancy rates in the city had been mentioned but not quantified. The bid also did not mention the number of business and learners supported.

The government said this was “a notable statistical omission.”

The feedback stated: “It would have been useful to understand how well Bath Spa University’s fashion and design courses are attended now and what changes this project expects to achieve and how many businesses are expected to access the support hub.”

The government added that there was a risk in obtaining planning permission for the Grade II listed Old Post Office. There were also concerns over whether costs could go up between the purchase of the building and the planned date for constitution to be completed in 2025.

Questions were also raised about the “more costly option” of moving the museum to the Old Post Office rather than to other cheaper locations which had been considered — but the council say it was the only suitable option.

The feedback also shows the government had doubts over the council’s ability to secure extra funding.

The Levelling Up Fund bid would have contributed £20m towards the £37m project — almost 60% — with the remaining funding coming from a loan from the West of England Combined Authority, selling off assets, and a £5m loan at Public Works Loan Board Rates.

The government warned: “All of which will be affected by the increasingly challenging economic climate.”

Support had also been offered “informally” by the Arts Council, Historic England, and the National Heritage Lottery Fund, but the government said this should have been more clearly evidenced.

But the feedback was positive about how the bid set out the impacts the funding would have. 

It stated: “The work did a good job of answering questions around skills and education, showing how the planned and on-going work of the council, Bath Spa University and Bath College would provide the links between the Fashion Museum’s collection and skills, education and training, and employment and business support. […]

“The use of the Levelling Up White Paper’s missions and capitals made clear the connection between the project’s aspirations and government’s. This was clearly demonstrated and highly detailed.”

The feedback added:  “Assumptions and forecasts were well outlined, and the applicant clearly articulated how the proposal would address the problems they outline.”

Council leader Kevin Guy said: “We are committed to delivering the new Bath Fashion Museum and the Collection Centre. These will be fabulous assets for the community and will act as catalysts for regeneration and engagement.

“Grant funding is already in place to develop the full vision, business case and funding strategy. We also have an experienced delivery team in place and have already secured than iconic new home for the Fashion Museum at the Old Post Office, right in the heart of Bath.

“The Levelling Up funding decision was a disappointment, however alternative funding options have been under consideration right from the start. The process of developing the bid, and this very positive feedback, will be invaluable for other funding applications.

“Ultimately, decisions relating to Levelling Up funding are in the hands of the Conservative government. They have created a deeply flawed funding process, which forces local authorities into competition for a narrow pot of funding and which has been criticised as using public funds for political purposes.”

While the museum does not have a home, its collection is being stored in a glove factory in Warminster at a cost of £150k a year.

The council plans to rent out the Old Post Office on short term lets to raise money for the Fashion Museum move.

Bath Voice Monthly Newspaper is distributed free to thousands of homes and some supermarkets – distributed from the first of the month. Harry Mottram is the News Editor

Email him at

Bath website:
Bath Facebook:

Also on Twitter:

Read the newspaper online at :

To advertise to thousands of Bathonians call Erica on 07402 441485 or email her on

Harry Mottram is a freelance journalist. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc

Mobile: 07789 864769