Tory Minister: Those criticising towns fund should 'consider their position' as MPs

Selby and Ainsty MP Nigel Adams
Selby and Ainsty MP Nigel Adams
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A Conservative Minister has said Labour MPs criticising a new £1.6bn package for run-down towns, should ask themselves “why they are doing the job”, branding their reaction “ludicrous”.

North Yorkshire MP Nigel Adams, told The Yorkshire Post he would be working with local leaders to get a slice of the cash and dismissed claims that the new fund was a “bribe” to win backing for the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s launch of the £1.6bn Stronger Towns Fund package prompted a backlash among Labour MPs, with many dismissing the announcement as politically motivated ahead the next crucial Brexit vote, set to take place next week.

The money, which will be spread over seven financial years to 2025-2026, was deemed a "desperate bribe" by the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell.

Labour also claimed that the fund would not come close to filling the gap left by cuts to council budgets imposed over the last nine years, with party analysis putting the national shortfall at £5.7bn, and the gap in Yorkshire and the Humber at £735m.

Shadow Communities Secretary, Andrew Gwynne, said: “Theresa May’s pathetic bribe is £5.7bn short of the cuts the Tories have inflicted on local councils across the country... The money on offer may sound large, but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the billions the Conservatives have cut from local communities.”

However, Wales Minister Mr Adams blasted the response, saying it was “ludicrous,” and adding that Opposition MPs were “not doing their job correctly if they are refusing to take part in a Government investment programme that could benefit their constituencies.”

“If they are genuinely saying we don’t want that investment in our town they should look themselves in the mirror and ask why they are doing the job,” he said.

He added: “I will be working with our district council and the LEP (local enterprise partnership) to see if we can put together a bid for Selby.”

Earlier, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said the money would be "transformative" and was not conditional on support for the Prime Minister's Withdrawal Agreement.

And Mrs May's official spokesman confirmed the money was not conditional on MPs backing the Brexit deal, telling reporters it was "absolutely not" a bribe in return for votes.

Launching the new £1.6bn Stronger Towns Fund package, Mrs May said: "For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread.

"Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change - that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control.”

Responding on social media, Mr McDonnell said: "This Towns Fund smacks of desperation from a Government reduced to bribing MPs to vote for their damaging flagship Brexit legislation."

Of the £1bn being allocated using a needs-based formula Yorkshire and the Humber will get £197m, with £281m for the North West, £212m for the West Midlands, £110m for the East Midlands, £105m for the North East, £37m for the South East, £35m for the South West, and £25m for the East of England.

Another £600m will be available through a bidding process to communities in any part of the country.

Many of Yorkshire’s Labour MPs rejected the offer, with Bradford’s Imran Hussain tweeting: “Since 2010, Bradford Council have had to make over £250m worth of savings because of Tory austerity cuts to their budgets. This Government Brexit Bribe won't even begin to cover the damage they've done to our city.”

However, Doncaster's Caroline Flint - who has hinted that she could back Mrs May’s Brexit deal in next week’s Commons vote - welcomed the cash.

She said: “Brexit or not we should be supporting funding to address the concerns of our towns and also the disparity between spending in the South and North on areas like transport. I won’t apologise for that.”