The city council’s deputy leader said he does not see how £5 million of Levelling Up cash will actually improve things for the poorest people in Worcester.

Millions in Levelling Up funds is being given to Worcester City Council by the government - but must be spent on cultural projects limited to heritage and the arts.

Proposals have been drawn up to invest in city museums, parks, the Swan Theatre and the Corn Exchange buildings, among other projects.

Jabba Riaz, speaking at a Policy and Resources committee meeting on Tuesday (May 21) said: “There’s obviously a good variety of projects within this bid, which cover a lot of things.

“However, the stark reality of this bid is that I fail to understand how it levels up or relates to people from the areas of highest need, people struggling with their daily income, who are unable to get on a bus to come into the centre of Worcester.

“Most of the attractions that are in here - how does it level them up? Apart from one project, which is probably the music box at a cost of £80,000, which represents 1.6 per cent of the total budget of this, that you could say actually helps people with the highest need - that actually need culture the most.

“I think it’s not a set of priorities that a Labour government or a Labour administration would put forward, however we realise we are in the place that we are in.

“With hindsight, if the opportunity ever came up again, I’d love to have officers look at those projects that do allow our communities that never, ever get to access culture in this way.”

Referencing the ongoing concerns over the future of professional cricket at New Road, Cllr Riaz added: “The whole government focus has excluded many of the facets of levelling up or culture that residents of the city want, so neither sport or play was included in that and it just shows such a narrow mindset of thinking of how this was proposed to us.”

Cllr Karen Lewing said a couple of the projects would help promote the arts to young people.

“We know the government has not valued the arts and music in their lack of funding over the last decade.

“With music particularly, we’re at risk of making it something that children can only learn when their parents can afford to pay.

“This [music box] bus is really going to help with the distribution of music across state schools.

“But also the bandstands, having music in a park that is open to anyone, completely free, is great. So to me there is a part of this that is about levelling up.”

Managing director David Blake said he suggested to Levelling Up minister Jacob Young that if it had been up to him, he would’ve focussed the money on enterprise and supporting start-up businesses rather than culture.