Justin Madders MP, has raised concerns over the transparency and the fairness of the new Towns Fund announced by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on his second day in office back in July.
The £3.6 billion fund, which the Government says will enable 100 towns to develop innovative regeneration plans, immediately caught the eye of the Ellesmere Port and Neston MP as the town had narrowly missed out on winning a bid under the Future High Streets Fund earlier this year and remains in need of funding to support their local area plans to improve the town centre.
Mr Madders made enquiries to two government departments for further information on which towns would be receiving the new fund and how those towns had been decided upon, with the Cabinet Office responding in the first instance to say they held no information on the fund, and then in early September the Ministry for Homes, Communities & Local Government responding that it was too costly to collate and share the information. The very next day however, the names of the first 100 towns eligible for support were published, and disappointingly Ellesmere Port was not on the list.
Worse still, analysis of the 100 towns set to receive a cash bribe from the Government has led many to believe that they were chosen for electioneering purposes, as many are marginal seats that the Conservative party would either need to hold on to or win from Labour or other opposition parties in a general election.
The towns are spread across 111 parliamentary constituencies, most of which are in the midlands and the north of England. Over half of the constituencies have a parliamentary majority of less than 5,000 votes, with 20 of those having a majority of less than 1000.
Speaking at the Convention of the North in Rotherham on Friday, the Prime Minister dismissed claims of political bias. The Manchester Evening News however, reported that a political analyst from Manchester University described the list as looking like an obvious electoral strategy.
Justin Madders said, “Yet again, the Tories are putting party above country. As with the Future High Streets Fund, where the majority of the new towns that were added to the list at the end of August just happened to be from Conservative constituencies, most of the towns to benefit from this new fund are target seats for the Tories ahead of a possible election.”
“When I asked for details of the basis upon which towns would be allocated this funding I was astonished that the Cabinet Office claimed to have no information on this whatsoever. What kind of Government makes a multi-billion-pound spending announcement without a scrap of paper to back it up? Since then we have been led a merry dance by Government departments who clearly don’t want to explain themselves- the money is clearly a pre-election bribe and I am outraged that my town has been left on the scrapheap again because the Tories are playing political games.”