One of the most consequential cuts made by the Tories in the last decade was the removal of central funding for councils.
In typical Tory fashion, the alleged partial replacement for the lost funding is a competition between towns to receive money from central government. This is called Towns Fund.
The blurb for Towns Fund referred to Tories’ entirely deceptive “levelling up” scheme.
“The Towns Fund is part of the government’s plan for leveling up the UK economy. Towns across England will work with the Government to address growth constraints and to ensure there is a course of recovery from the impact of COVID-19. The overarching aims of the Towns Fund are to drive the sustainable economic regeneration of towns to deliver long term economic and productivity growth.“
It was presented as an opportunity for towns to beg for money just to afford what should be funded without question.
The real purpose of Towns Fund is to use central funding – public money – to bribe voters.
Swing seats and councils with small majorities (for Tory party or otherwise) are recipients of money from Towns Fund, as are towns that switched from Labour to Tory in 2019 general election as a thank-you to voters in those towns in order to encourage voters to vote Tory elsewhere. Forty of the forty-five towns announced in the March budget this year (2021) benefitting from Towns Fund have a Tory MP. In all of the towns there will be council elections in May.
The towns that receive funding are chosen by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government led by Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick. His constituency, Newark, will receive £25,000,000 from the Towns Fund but Jenrick did not make that recommendation. Newark was selected by Tory MP Jake Berry who is a junior minister in the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government. Darwen, a town in Berry’s constituency, was recommended as a recipient of funding by Jenrick.
Newark’s money will be spent on restoring a castle: George Grylls, Esther Webber for Times
Jenrick has form. Last year (2020), he approved Richard Desmond’s Westferry housing development twenty-four hours before the community infrastructure levy was introduced. A day’s delay would have cost Desmond £45,000,000. Desmond donated £12,000 to the Tory party two weeks later. When exposed, Jenrick reversed his decision but tried to hide any documentation or details of communication about the corruption. He was forced to release the details.
Towns Fund is simply a means of using public money as Tory campaign funding.
Recommended reading: Chris Henretty for Wiley Library
Related blog: Robert Jenrick, planning permission and statues