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Government launch £1.6bn Stronger Towns Fund

The government has today (4 March) launched its £1.6bn Stronger Towns Fund to help local areas grow after Brexit.

According to ministers, the fund will help ‘create new jobs, help train local people and boost economic activity’, but it also comes at a time when prime minister Theresa May is under renewed pressure to break the political deadlock over Brexit.

Opposition MPs have already accused the Government of using the fund to try and ‘bribe’ MPs into supporting Ms May’s Brexit deal.

The fund itself will be divided into two sections.

A total of £1bn will be allocated using a needs-based formula to individual regions.

More than half of this money (£583 million) will go to towns across the North with a further £322 million allocated to communities in the Midlands.

Another £600 million will be available through a bidding process to communities in any part of the country.

Communities will be able to draw up job-boosting plans for their town, with the support and advice of their Local Enterprise Partnerships.

‘For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread,’ said Ms May, launching the fund.

‘Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities.’

Here is the full list of regional allocations:

  • North West  – £283m
  • North East –  £105m
  • Yorkshire and the Humber – £197m
  • West Midlands – £212m
  • East Midlands – £110m
  • South West – £33m
  • South East – £37m
  • East of England – £25m

‘We have listened to people who are concerned by momentous changes to their communities and I am determined to provide the support they need to create a more prosperous future beyond Brexit,’ said housing and communities secretary, James Brokenshire.

‘This major new fund builds on more than £9bn in City and Growth Deals we have delivered since 2010 to help hard working people reach their full potential and to build an economy that works for everyone.

‘I look forward to working closely with local leaders to take forward their encouraging proposals and to hear what more they propose to bring benefits to their communities.’

But Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell said the fund ‘smacks of desperation from a government reduced to bribing MPs to vote for their damaging flagship Brexit legislation’.

‘The reason our towns are struggling is because of a decade of cuts, including to council funding and a failure to invest in businesses and our communities,’ added Mr McDonnell.

The chief executive of the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), Campbell Robb commented: ‘The Stronger Towns Fund must not mean dipping into the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF), a manifesto commitment made to towns and cities using money repatriated from the EU. A consultation on the fund is long overdue and has left towns and cities facing uncertainty as the Brexit withdrawal process saps Whitehall attention.

‘If the government is serious about transforming towns, it needs to set out its plans for the SPF now and bring serious money to the table – not just a small pot to fix short-term problems.’

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