THE UK Government’s “deeply damaging” levelling-up agenda is failing people, businesses and communities, Wales’ economy minister warned.

Vaughan Gething described replacement EU funding streams as an “incoherent mess, with very little planning, consultation or economic logic”.

Mr Gething accused the UK Government of taking money and powers away from Wales, arguing piecemeal projects will have significantly less economic impact than EU funding.

“Wales has less say over less money,” he said. “That is a deliberate Tory choice – to centralise plainly devolved funds and responsibilities.”

The would-be first minister said the levelling-up fund has been plagued by chaos and delay, with councils pitted against each other and Wales left almost £1.3 billion worse off.

He quoted the Institute for Government as saying the fund is an “ineffective competitive funding pot that is neither large enough nor targeted enough to make a dent”.

Mr Gething told the Senedd: “The delivery of the levelling-up agenda is unforgivable and deeply damaging.

“With ineptitude and indifference, the UK Government has wasted the opportunity to deliver meaningful change that Wales and the rest of the UK so desperately needs.”

Paul Davies, the Conservatives’ shadow minister, accused Mr Gething of using the debate to take political pot shots at the UK Government.

Mr Davies said: “He should be getting on with his job, rather than whipping up the issue just to show off to his party members.

“It's hardly very statesmanlike from someone hoping to be the next first minister.”

The former Conservative group leader highlighted the Senedd economy committee’s report on post-EU regional development funding.

He said the cross-party report provides an objective, unbiased and in-depth analysis.

Mr Davies told MSs the Welsh and UK Governments both believe they should be solely responsible for the delivery of post-EU funds.

Calling for grown-up politics, he said: “I urge both governments to get on with it and work together in the interests of the people of Wales.

“I believe that both governments could and should focus less on the politics of the funding.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth described the levelling-up agenda as an example of an unfair and unjust funding system that Wales finds itself part of.

The Plaid Cymru leader told MSs that the most deprived regions received 83 per cent of total EU funding given to Wales.

“Almost three times as much per person as better off areas of Wales – that's what levelling up genuinely means,” he said.

“But, under the new UK shared prosperity fund, that figure falls to 73 per cent, and what that tells me is that we're heading in the wrong direction.”

Mr Iorwerth highlighted The Guardian’s analysis that Conservative marginal seats received one-and-a-half times the amount of funding per person than other constituencies.

“This is democratic corruption by the Conservative Party,” he said.