Theresa May has been accused of bribing her critics by offering ‘left-behind’ towns a share of £1,000,000,000 to get support for her deal.
The Government today launched the Stronger Towns Fund, a £1.6 billion post-Brexit fund to boost run-down communities predominantly in the north of England and Midlands.
The North West will get £281 million, the West Midlands £212 million, Yorkshire and the Humber £197 million, the East Midlands £110 million and the North East £105 million.
By comparison, towns in the South East will get £37 million, the South West £35 million, and the East of England £25 million. Another £600 million will be available through a bidding process to communities in any part of the country.
The Government says the money will be aimed at creating new jobs, helping train local people and boosting economic activity, but the pledge has been attacked by a stream of Labour MPs who called it a ‘Brexit bribe’. Wigan MP Lisa Nandy called it ‘more stitch up politics’ and tweeted:
‘After decades of neglect a one-off payment designed to help the Prime Minister ahead of a key Brexit vote will fail, and it will confirm to people in our towns that the government is not serious in its commitment to our communities.’ Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Gareth Snell said the announcement was a ‘huge disappointment’. He tweeted:
‘The entire allocation for the West Midlands over four years is LESS than the total value of cuts faced by Stoke-on-Trent City Council alone over the same period.’ Luke Pollard, who represents Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, scorned the £35 million earmarked for towns in the South West.
He tweeted: ‘That’s the same amount of money Govt has to pay in compensation for the Brexit ferries shambles. Where is the south west’s fair share of this new money? We are ignored by Government. What a pathetic mess.’ And Rhondda MP Chris Bryant tweeted: ‘And not a penny for Wales. The trouble with bribes is they embody injustice.’
In West Yorkshire, Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin tweeted: ‘Stronger Towns Fund gives £197m for #yorkshireandhumber spread over seven years. ‘Sounds like a lot? Not when you factor in a decade of cuts @KirkleesCouncil.’ Birmingham Erdington MP Jack Dromey said the pledge ‘will be of little use if her botched #Brexit makes our towns and our country poorer for years to come. ‘Besides it is only fraction of the #austerity cuts.’
The PM announced the fund by saying: ‘For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread. ‘Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities. ‘Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change – that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control.
‘These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them.’ But senior Labour figures were quick to reject the announcement, with shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer warning the plan ‘won’t work’.
‘If money is available, it should be spent on areas that need it. But not to influence votes,’ he tweeted. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell branded the initiative a ‘desperate bribe’. He said: ‘This towns fund smacks of desperation from a Government reduced to bribing MPs to vote for their damaging flagship Brexit legislation.’
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