A Yorkshire Tory candidate has said our towns are in “dire need of help from government” as he dismissed claims a Town’s Fund announced by Boris Johnson would go little way to heal the wounds of austerity.
Craig Whittaker, the Conservative Party candidate for Calder Valley, made the comments yesterday during a visit from Robert Jenrick, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, to Brighouse.
Mr Whittaker said he had been “lucky” as three of the constituency towns - Todmorden, Brighouse and Elland - were due to receive millions of pounds as part of the Government’s Town’s Fund.
Mr Johnson announced an election package costing hundreds of millions of pounds for neglected towns earlier this year, with selected areas getting up to £25m to regenerate.
Mr Jenrick said: “We believe that too much money has been spent in London and on the great cities, like Manchester and Leeds, at the expense of towns where millions of people live which have very proud heritages and can have very bright futures but do need some investment.”
But the fund has come under fire from opposition parties, who have accused the Tories of targeting the money to key marginal seats, and that the amount given does not heal the wounds of austerity.
Mr Whittaker branded this as “absolute nonsense” and said: “Austerity isn’t about infrastructure spend. What people are talking about, they have confused day to day spending in regards to services and what we are doing here which is about infrastructure.”
Mr Jenrick added: “We chose the towns against objective criteria we published some time ago which looked at deprivation, educational performance, social mobility, connectivity- both through road and rail - but also broadband and 21st Century infrastructure. That led us to the places that we invested in.
“We are not going to apologise for investing in towns like Brighouse. Boris Johnson as Prime Minister has made it part of the mission of this Government to level up towns, particularly in the North, many of which have been under invested in by successive governments for too long.
“We want to invest more in those communities so they can have a brighter future.”
He said: "That is a once in a generation opportunity to decide what are the investments that would make a difference. Whether that is in better transport, regenerating the town centres, investing in heritage and the fabric of high streets, helping people to get in and out of town centres, or technology like wifi and broadband.
"There are so many different types of options available and we want these choices to be made by local people and small-business people who are running independent shops and businesses in the town centres and I am hopeful we will be able to sign a series of town deals in each of these towns at the beginning of next year."