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Labour council leaders slam ‘paltry’ Stronger Towns Fund

More than 60 Labour council leaders have written to the prime minister, slamming the £1.6bn post-Brexit Stronger Town Fund as a ‘drop in the ocean’.

In the letter, the council leaders claim the Tories have failed to ‘address the needs of the towns, cities, and regions we represent’ and criticised the amount of money on offer, following last week’s controversial announcement.

‘It quickly emerged that the headline announcement of £1.6bn was in fact spread over six years, equivalent to just £260m a year,’ the letter states.

‘Compared to the cuts that your government has inflicted on local councils across the country, this new funding announcement is a drop in the ocean – and it is no surprise that the announcement has been greeted with derision.’

The Stronger Towns Fund was launched last week and according to ministers, it will help ‘create new jobs, help train local people and boost economic activity’.

But the timing of the announcement, particularly as prime minister Theresa May is under renewed pressure to break the political deadlock over Brexit, meant it was criticised by many.

MPs return to Westminster this week for a series of important votes on Brexit, which could determine the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

The letter has been signed by Newcastle City Council leader, Cllr Nick Forbes, St Helens Council leader, Cllr Derek Long and Barking and Dagenham Council leaders, Cllr Darren Rodwell among others.

‘We are also confused by the fact that Stronger Towns Fund allocations have been decided using deprivation as a factor, given that your government’s plan to remove deprivation as a factor in deciding council funding,’ the letter adds.

‘This will see poorer communities suffer even more, while rewarding more affluent, typically Tory voting areas. If you recognise the need to consider deprivation for this fund, why are you so determined to press on with your plan to remove it as a consideration in the Fair Funding Review?’

Commenting on the letter, Labour’s shadow communities secretary, Andrew Gwynne, said: ‘The government must listen to the warnings of our local government leaders and provide the funding we need to avoid a catastrophic collapse in key council services.

‘This paltry amount is nothing compared to the billions they’ve cut from local communities and will do little to reverse the damage they have inflicted in each and every region.’

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