Harlow Council paid consultants tens of thousands of pounds for a failed bid for government 'levelling up' cash.

A Freedom of Information request sent by the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed Harlow Council spent £87,125 on four consultants between May and July 2021 to help with its bid for £20 million to regenerate Playhouse Quarter and Stone Cross Square.

Epping Forest Guardian: An artist impression of the Playhouse Square plans. Photo: Harlow Council

An artist's impression of plans to regenerate Playhouse Quarter

The figure was less than the budgeted £125,000 allocated to local authorities by the Government.

The bid was unsuccessful in the first round, but the council says it expects its bid to be successful in the second tranche of funding allocations next spring.

Read more: Council’s multi-million pound 'levelling-up' bid for town centre unsuccessful

A spokesperson for Harlow Council said: “All 93 councils prioritised to bid for funding were allocated £125,000 capacity funding by the Government to help them develop their bids. 

“We have received positive and strong feedback so far on our bid for the town centre and we remain confident that our proposals will be supported by government and we expect to hear more in spring 2022.

“We welcome the extra time we have as it allows us to align the proposals to the wider plans we have for regenerating and rebuilding our town centre, including with the £23.7 million Town Deal we secured in June.

“We have so far spent £87,125 of this government funding from the allocation.

Read more: MP hopes arts and cultural plaza funding will be re-thought

“The money has been used on specialist consultants to shape the proposals which are in the process of being further refined following the announcement that our bid will be taken forward to tranche two of funding.”

Most of the expense was paid to one consultant, referred to in the response as “consultant 1”, who received £53,625 between May and June 2021.

Consultant 2 was paid £23,000 between June and July, consultant 3 received £8,000 in July and Consultant 4 received £2,500 in May.

The Levelling Up Fund is a £4.8 billion government fund towards town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects and cultural and heritage assets.

Read more: Government ‘determined to help’ with £20m investment into regeneration plans

Plan unveiled for £20 million regeneration of Harlow town squares

The government allocated £1.7 billion to successful applicants as part of the budget in October this year.

A second round of winners will be announced in the Spring, which is when the council now expects its funding bid to be approved.

If successful, the money will go towards an arts and cultural plaza in Playhouse Quarter and a new green, social and leisure-focused event and activity space in Stonecross Square, according to council documents.