Recent reports indicate the Government has allocated £1.6 billion in a government fund which will be used to improve less well-off towns in England post-Brexit.
The Secretary of State announced:
"Today, I have published notional allocations of £1 billion of the fund. I have allocated that amount based on need. I have looked at the relative productivity, income and skills levels, and targeted more funding to those places with levels that are lower than the average, ensuring that local towns can access the funding needed to support productivity growth. Given that we all know that pockets of deprivation exist even in our most successful local economies, I have made sure that we take into account such very localised economic conditions. We will work with local areas to explore town deals that unlock local potential, investing in places and investing in people.
Today, I can therefore confirm initial allocations of £583 million to towns across the northern powerhouse, £322 million to those in the midlands engine, and £95 million across the south. The remaining £600 million will be invested following a competitive process that I invite all towns to take part in. I will publish a prospectus, which will include further details of the process, and I am keen to encourage high-quality, ambitious bids."
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Andrew Gwynne, replied on behalf of the Opposition and said:
"This supposed funding boost is a pittance that will do little compared with the billions that his Government have already cut from our local communities. It will do little to reverse the damage that they have inflicted in each and every region. The reason that many of our towns are struggling is a near decade of politically imposed cuts, including to council funding and public services, by this Conservative Government. No one should be hoodwinked by such a shameful and pitiful attempt to gain support for the Prime Minister’s botched withdrawal agreement.
The fact is that between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost 60p out of every £1 that the Government provide for services. Why has the Secretary of State cut 60p in every £1 from local government? Why did he not announce a reversal of that cut today, considering that it has left local services facing a funding gap of £3.2 billion? By 2025, the gap facing our local councils will rise to £7.8 billion.
If that was not bad enough, at a time when the Government should be reinvesting in our most deprived areas, they are instead cutting them even harder. Nine of the 10 most deprived councils in England have seen cuts of almost three times the national average. With such policies, does the Secretary of State believe that his party is truly showing itself to be the party for the few and not the many, or is this, as many of us suspect, a thinly veiled effort to mask its near decade of failure?"
Follow the @HouseofCommons on Twitter for updates on the UK House of Commons Chamber.