A GROUP of Conservative members have hit back after the leader of Denbighshire County Council criticised the MP for the Vale of Clwyd, claiming he had "let down" the people of Rhyl and North Denbighshire after the region missed out on £20m of UK Government funding.

Denbighshire Conservative Group has warned that the council leader’s comments have "put at risk" the chances of funding being secured in the next round.

The Journal reported last week that the Vale of Clwyd’s bid for the UK Government’s Levelling-Up Fund was unsuccessful, despite reaching a shortlisting phase. As a result, several regeneration projects in Rhyl, Prestatyn, Rhuddlan, and Denbigh are now in doubt.

The Levelling-Up Fund was part of the UK Government’s 2019 manifesto aimed at helping to regenerate town centres and historic buildings with individual bids requiring MP support – support that Vale of Clwyd Conservative MP James Davies pledged.

Labour councillor Jason McLellan, leader of Denbighshire County Council, launched an attack on Dr Davies. In scathing remarks he said Dr Davies had "let down the people of Rhyl and North Denbighshire."

He said (last week): “I’m really cross with the government. I had one meeting with the MP James Davies, and that was more about the Shared Prosperity Fund, not the Levelling-Up fund. I don’t think he engaged with me particularly well, and I had a call from the (Denbighshire) chief exec who had chased up James Davies because we had heard about the successful Clwyd West bid, but other than that, I would have been finding out about it reading in the paper.

“James Davies has let down the people of Rhyl and North Denbighshire.

“I did have meetings with MP David Jones, so I’m not being purely party political, but the Vale of Clwyd has been badly let down.

“James Davies has let the constituency down. He was an advocate for Brexit.

“He was a strong supporter of Boris Johnson’s campaign in 2019 to ‘Get Brexit Done’, and he’s been an advocate of this process all along, and the end result for Rhyl, Prestatyn, Rhuddlan, and north Denbighshire is that we do not get a penny.

“The people of Rhyl, Prestatyn, Denbigh, and Rhuddlan are going to be very disappointed.

“My priority is working with the officers to salvage these projects, but as always, decisions do have political implications.

“We are not very far away from a general election, are we? So the people of the Vale of Clwyd can have their say then.”

The leader said the whole bidding process, which relied on MPs’ individual support, was "undemocratic and unfair", despite Dr Davies backing the funding bid.

Now Denbighshire Conservative Group, made up of cllr Justine Evans, cllr Peter Scott, cllr Terry Mendies, cllr James Elson, cllr Ann Davies and cllr Hugh Irving, have responded and defended Dr Davies stating that the leader of the council may not "understand the independent scoring process that was in place" as part of the bid for the UK Government’s Levelling-Up Fund.

In a statement, they said: "We are disappointed that the leader of Denbighshire County Council has made the Levelling Up Fund such a divisive political issue. His comments in the press on were inaccurate, unprofessional, dishonest and irresponsible.

“It was first and foremost a council bid, so it’s disingenuous for the leader to place any blame specifically at Dr Davies’s door. Either Cllr McLellan is knowingly misleading the public or he doesn’t understand the independent scoring process that was in place – neither are good for a leader.

“In his comments to the press, and in a press release issued by Denbighshire County Council, the leader states that Dr Davies did not engage with him over the bid. It must be stressed that the bid was already finalised before Jason McLellan became Leader in May 2022. It takes two to engage, and the current Leader had made no attempts to engage with the MP regarding the bid. Dr Davies would have very happily welcomed any further engagement with councillors but was in any case in regular contact with council officers in the run up to the bid’s submission.

“Dr Davies worked well with the previous Leader, Hugh Evans, on the bid.

“The leader also stated that the chief executive had to 'chase' Dr Davies regarding the outcome of the bid when in fact the MP contacted him immediately having learned the full details himself, and before the 10.30pm embargo.

“We feel that cllr McLellan has not acted in the best interest of Denbighshire. More importantly, we fear that his conduct could jeopardise work going forward to secure the £20m for the Vale of Clwyd in the third round of the Levelling Up fund, putting at risk town centre and seafront regeneration projects in Rhyl, the redevelopment of the North Wales Hospital and Buttermarket in Denbigh, and environmental projects in Prestatyn, Rhuddlan and Bodelwyddan.


“The leader of a local authority should work in partnership with all political parties and should put residents and communities first. Sadly this has not happened in Denbighshire. Instead, the leader has focused his energy on making political attacks on a member of parliament who has worked tirelessly with local members, officers and the previous leader, in an attempt to secure these vital funds for the Vale of Clwyd.

“We now urge the leadership in Denbighshire to stop playing party political games and to engage in a positive manner to secure this much needed funding for the area.” 

When it was revealed the funding bid had failed, Dr Davies commented: "The UK Government has placed Denbighshire in the highest priority category for receipt of Levelling Up monies, largely due to deprivation present in parts of Rhyl and Denbigh. It provided capacity funding to support the preparation and submission of a high-quality bid for the Vale of Clwyd constituency area and I understand the hard work carried out so far has been recognised and met many of the necessary criteria.

“However, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)’s independent scoring process requires an even stronger bid before funding can be released. The department therefore intends to work with the county council to modify its proposals to achieve this.

“I am grateful to Levelling Up Minister Dehenna Davison MP for agreeing to visit Rhyl shortly to discuss how best to ensure the proposals can progress via round three of the fund. During the formulation of the Vale of Clwyd ‘Levelling Up Fund’ bid, very many hours of engagement were spent between myself, Denbighshire County Council officers and elected councillors of all parties.

“The council went on to liaise closely with officials at DLUHC. Following the council’s submission of the bid, I held repeated meetings and conversations with the Chancellor and Treasury, No 10 and DLUHC ministers to ensure there was a full and proper understanding of the bid and its importance. However, it was made clear to me that decisions must and would be based on the independent scoring process.

“The ‘Levelling Up Fund’ has already been incredibly positive for North Wales, with the region having received more financial support per head of the population than virtually any other area of the United Kingdom, and Denbighshire itself having had bids approved in both rounds of the process so far.

“DLUHC officials have indicated to me some of the possible reasons why Denbighshire’s third bid missed out on qualifying for funding in this round. I am meeting them next week to discuss these reasons in detail, so that I can advise the council further. This has been a collaborative process, including elected councillors, pursued in good faith by all, and I am optimistic that with continued partnership working, the third round of the fund can bring success.

“Meanwhile, I welcome work being carried out to begin to allocate the £25.6 million that has been awarded to the county from the Government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund – another of the levelling up funding schemes. This will build on the good work already carried out through the £2.9m UK Community Renewal Fund and exceeds the support that the county would have received under the European Union funding metrics.

“I urge the council to continue to also seek investment opportunities within the North Wales Growth Deal and Community Ownership Fund.”

A separate bid of over £11m in Clwyd West was successful.

Funds not secured included:

£5,250,000 earmarked for Rhyl Town Centre

£4,000,000 for Rhyl’s Central Promenade Scheme, re-connecting the town centre with the promenade and beach

£2,500,000 for improvements to Prestatyn’s public realm and High Street

£2,750,000 for the demolition of Denbigh Hospital and the clearance of buildings

£1,200,000 for Denbigh Buttermarket Community Hub Repurpose – a Grade II listed building to be developed into a health, wellbeing, and culture centre with museum area and archives

£1,000,000 for Bodelwyddan Country Park improvements, including new woodland planting, trees, and wildflower meadow and new access paths, car parking, toilets, etc

£900,000 for the Rhyl Town Centre Gateway Scheme demolition and redevelopment

£500,000 for Rhyl Queens Building

£750,000 for Prestatyn Repurposed Nature Walk, including upgrades to Dyserth Way and accessibility for all at Morfa and numerous improvements

£200,000 for Rhuddlan Coed Y Brain Community Hub – conversion of former children’s nursery into a community facility.