Labour leaders in South Yorkshire ignore Rother Valley, says 'blue wall' Tory MP Alexander Stafford in Commons debate

A Conservative 'blue wall' MP will praise the "life-changing" impact of the Government's Levelling Up fund as he accuses Labour leaders in South Yorkshire of ignoring the villages in his constituency.

Rother Valley MP Alexander Stafford, who was elected in the 2019 General Election, will claim in a Commons debate today that neglect by Labour-run authorities had a "stark" impact on high streets and communities.

He will say £20m in infrastructure funding could be coming to his semi-rural seat of ex-mining towns and villages as a result of the Government's flagship Levelling Up Fund after it was named as a top priority area.

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Rother Valley MP Alexander Stafford

And he will add that the 'levelling up' agenda promoted by Boris Johnson "resonates with the residents of Rother Valley because they want to be able to see with their own eyes tangible evidence of progress and real proof that their lives are being improved".

Mr Stafford will also tell MPs in an adjournment debate today of "repeated failings of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) to look after the towns and villages of Rother Valley".

He will claim that the Labour-run authority, where the Conservatives went from zero to 20 councillors this weekend after the local elections, "is a council for Rotherham town proper as opposed to its adjacent hinterlands".

Mr Stafford will say: "There is a fundamental issue with how RMBC approaches areas like Rother Valley: it is not just that we do not receive any investment, but that there are few plans in place for these areas

at all.

"The lack of development plans is particularly extraordinary when one considers that Labour has controlled RMBC since time immemorial.

"There are no plans in place for Rother Valley’s high streets because our areas are simply not a priority for the bigwigs in Rotherham town. This is the reality, plain and simple, and everyone in Rother Valley has known this for years."

The MP will also criticise the Sheffield City Region combined authority, led by metro mayor Dan Jarvis, which he says "has the power to transform Rother Valley’s transport, fund large infrastructure projects, and boost businesses and local skills".

He will say: "This is all with central government funding – so as a key part of the Sheffield metropolitan area, we should be benefitting from devolution. However, very little comes our way.

"Whether it is RMBC’s obsession with Rotherham town or Sheffield City Region’s fixation with Sheffield city, we lose out time and time again."

Mr Stafford is expected to say in conclusion: "The Levelling Up Fund will be life-changing, and I look forward to seeing this change on Rother Valley’s high streets in the months and years to come."

The Levelling Up Fund, valued at £4.8bn, is touted by the Government as evidence of its efforts to help left-behind areas along with the £3.6bn Towns Fund and £220m Community Renewal Fund.

But critics say the fund is worth significantly less than the Local Growth Fund that it replaced and point out that the Chancellor's North Yorkshire patch of Richmondshire is a higher priority for the fund than areas like Barnsley.

Chris Read, the Labour leader of Rotherham council, said: “Whilst we welcome the possibility of more funding coming to Rotherham after 11 years of Tory austerity, the opportunity to bid for a one off pot only masks real problem.

"Communities like ours need sustainable funding streams that we can rely on, with spend determined locally through our devolved institutions, so that we can make the right decisions for our own places.

"Instead the Government is once again pitting communities against each other, and instead of levelling up most of the national funding is likely to go to places already more affluent than Rotherham.

“The council certainly has bid for other competitive funds - the Towns Fund and the Future High Streets Fund - and we continue to await government decisions about these.

"But the geographies of these bids has been determined by the Conservative government, so it is a bit rich for anyone to suggest we have favoured one location over another.”

This weekend, Labour just managed to cling on to control of Rotherham council by two seats, as the Conservatives won 20 seats to form the largest opposition party.

Labour only just held on to their majority with 32 seats – just two more than the 30 needed to stay in control of the council.