More than £2m to help regenerate 16 Yorkshire towns is 'pre-election stunt', says Labour
Civic leaders in Yorkshire have been handed £2.5m to help regenerate towns across the region as part of a government fund branded a "one-off pre-election stunt" by Labour.
The funding has been handed to councils so they can make progress on their bids for a share of the £3.6bn Towns Fund to benefit 16 towns across the region.
Up to £25m could be made available for each area in a scheme Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick says will "help businesses grow, connect communities and give people the skills they need to succeed".
The areas to get the latest piece of funding are Goole, Scarborough, Whitby, Rotherham, Doncaster, Stainforth, Stocksbridge, Morley, Brighouse, Todmorden, Keighley, Shipley, Castleford, Wakefield, Dewsbury and Goldthorpe.
Between £140,000 and £173,000 is being made available to help bring together a Town Deal Board - including representatives from across the public, private and voluntary sectors - to "provide a clear vision for building on their town’s unique strengths".
Speaking in September during the Convention of the North event in Rotherham, Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted there was no political bias in the way the funding was being distributed, calling any such suggestion ‘pure cynicism’.
This was after the Manchester Evening News revealed that 94 of the 100 towns are in Leave-voting areas, with the remaining six all in Tory marginals in danger of being lost to Labour or the Liberal Democrats.
Chris Read, the Labour leader of Rotherham council, described the fund as a "sticking plaster after a decade of austerity".
And he said a prospectus released by the Government about what the fund should be used for contradicted the PM's claim that it "should be used for libraries, parks and youth clubs".
He said: "Towns will need more more clarity about what sort of projects are eligible and what local contributions the government is expecting.
"Asking councils to set up boards including local MPs and run public engagement campaigns during purdah in the run up to a General Election is similarly ill thought through.
"Of course all investment is welcome but this is no way to fund public services. Since 2010 councils in South Yorkshire have lost between them a total of one billion pounds a year, every year. We need sustainable funding, not a one-off pre-election stunt."
James Lewis, the deputy leader of Labour-run Leeds council, said the authority would "aim to use this new funding to contribute to our existing plans to regenerate towns within Leeds".
He added: “Labour councillors in Leeds City Council have already committed to spend nearly £1.5m on revitalising our town and local centres in all parts of the city, not just in marginal seats.
"We could do so much more for our communities had the Conservatives not taken away over £1.5 billion of Government funding to the council for delivering local services and regeneration, money which small one off grants just doesn’t replace.”
Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry said the Government was giving people in Yorkshire "the money and power to decide what is best for their town because they know their community’s unique strengths".
He said: “Together we can build on the billions of pounds the Government has already invested in our towns and the thousands of new jobs and businesses it has delivered, to level up these places across the Northern Powerhouse and beyond.”