There have been numerous examples of London being entirely excluded from applying for various types of national government funding, being placed way down the pecking order when decisions are taken – as was the case, contrary to much media coverage, with the second round of Levelling Up Fund money last week – or else effectively discouraged from bidding in the first place, when it is made clear from the off that other places will get preferential treatment.
An intriguing example of the latter emerged last Thursday when the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) released its guidance for organisations hoping to receive a portion of the up to £750,000 it has made available for the Windrush Day Grant Scheme 2023.
DLUHC describes the scheme’s aims as fostering “a greater sense of pride and recognition of the contributions made by UK Caribbean communities to UK society”, developing educational and entrepreneurial skills among the young, and educating people about the Windrush story – a particularly timely goal given that on 21 June this year it will be exactly 75 years since the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury with several hundred migrants from the Caribbean seeking work and opportunity in the UK. And in its selection criteria section the guidance says it wants projects to be “community-led” and “developed by, or with, the UK Caribbean community”.
What will guide DHLUC’s decisions about the geographical locations of organisations to get Windrush Day Grant Scheme 2023 money? How much weight will be given to the fact that well over 50 per cent of the United Kingdom’s roughly 600,000 people who identify as Black Caribbean are Londoners, with 345,400 of us providing the 2021 Census with that description? Does it mean that well over half of the £750,000 will be allocated to local authorities or other organisations in the capital?
It will be interesting to see. That is particularly so because beneath the “desirable criteria” subheading of DLUHC’s project specifications section it says: “We encourage applications from outside Greater London and the South East so that Windrush Day builds a good profile throughout all regions in England and Northern Ireland”.
What is the thinking behind that piece of encouragement? Should we put a firmly approving interpretation on DLUHC’s stated wish to foster a widely spread “good profile” of the marking of Windrush Day? Should we see it as commendably encouraging places where maybe almost no people of Black Caribbean – or, to use DLUHC’s term, UK Caribbean – live to recognise and value those people? Does this make it more likely that bids will be submitted from Northern Ireland, where only a few hundred UK Caribbean people live? And, come to think of it, why is Northern Ireland allowed to seek funding from this scheme but Wales and Scotland aren’t?
Perhaps there is a perfectly bland government organisational answer to that last question. But why the explicit bias against “London and the South East”? Would it be unkind to speculate that DLUHC is so habituated to discriminating against London that it hasn’t considered the argument that denying London – as distinct from the South East – a portion from the pot related to the size of its UK Caribbean population would be unfair? Or is it, as sadly seems more likely, that DLUHC has simply assumed that UK Caribbean communities in “rich London” (and indeed the “rich” South East) don’t need the money as badly as counterparts in the rest of England because all of London is “rich”.
If so, given the financial struggles being faced by so many Black Caribbean or UK Caribbean households in London, with its nation-leading poverty rates, that might be rather presumptuous. It will be interesting to see how the Windrush Day Grant Scheme 2023 money is shared out.
Image from government website.
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