Caroline Flint has demanded that local communities get a say over the new £1.6billion Stronger Towns Fund.
Welcoming the new fund, the Don Valley MP told Secretary of State for Communities, James Brokenshire: “It shouldn’t have taken a referendum and Brexit to hear the focus we are hearing today on towns.”
The MP challenged the Secretary of State: “It is really important this fund does not morph into every other fund that currently exists. Or that Local Enterprise partnerships end up as the sole arbiters of whether bids can go forward.
“I want to be reassured that there is going to be a voice, not just for elected representatives and businesses, but the ordinary, everyday, people who don’t feel the projects at the end of their street are being attended to. Will he confirm that for them match funding will not be required to secure a bid.”
The Secretary of State acknowledged the importance of this point, and added: “I want to see communities from the grassroots being properly engaged to help shape the deals coming forward and it is that approach I adopt.”
The Secretary of State has offered to meet with Ms Flint and other MPs to discuss the concerns raised.
Speaking after the exchange, Caroline said: “This debate on new funding for Britain’s towns is long overdue. Whether it is investment or new infrastructure, there is a strong feeling that funding is monopolised by a handful of major cities at the expense of our towns.
“The divide between cities and towns was brought into stark focus by the referendum result in 2016; yet, too often, debates in Westminster have been dominated by voices from London and Scotland. I promised Don Valley’s voters that I will fight to make Yorkshire voices heard, and securing a better deal for our towns is part of that.”
The MP argues that the North gains from this fund. “Only the first £1billion has been announced and the North receives nearly 60% of it. Yorkshire towns – not the cities – will share around £197million; and there is half as much again to come if the bids are there.”
The MP warned this was not the answer to austerity. “This funding cannot make up for the huge sums that have been cut from our council services, NHS, or policing - only a Labour Government can do this. But until that day comes I will make no apologies for fighting for every penny I can to improve communities and give a fresh start to towns like the ones I represent in Don Valley.”
“The Government has yet to announce how European Funding will be replaced as we leave the EU. I will be fighting to ensure that Doncaster and Yorkshire and the Humber do not lose out.
“This Stronger Towns money is new money for a different purpose – and we should welcome it, like we did the funding for the University Technical College, the Rail College, the Great Yorkshire Way and the Stronger Families funding.”