Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tory Warning over PM's 'Patronising' PS1.6bn Bribe to MPs in Struggling Towns

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Tory Warning over PM's 'Patronising' PS1.6bn Bribe to MPs in Struggling Towns

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicholas Cecil and Kate Proctor

TORY MPs today joined a growing wave of criticism of Theresa May's PS1.6 billion fund for struggling towns after it emerged the money was for a six-year period.

The package was branded a "pittance, corrupt, patronising and pathetic" by Labour MPs who see it as an attempt to "bribe" backbenchers from their party in Northern and Midlands Leave constituencies to support the Prime Minister's Brexit plans.

However Tory MPs in southern England also criticised the allocation of the funding as their areas are set to get just a small fraction of the cash, and they warned against the money being a "sticking plaster" or attempted "quick fix" to deeply-entrenched problems.

Initial reports suggested the funding was for four years, not six, and so in fact it works out at PS266 million a year.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire defended the programme, stressing it would be "transformative" and was not conditional on support for the Prime Minister's Withdrawal Agreement.

"This is new money for the period from 2020 to 2026," he said. "This funding is there to see that towns grow and ... seeing those areas really prospering." The North West is set to get PS281 million, West Midlands PS212 million, Yorkshire and The Humber PS197 million, East Midlands PS110 million, North East PS105 million, South East PS37 million, South West PS33 million and East of England PS25 million.

Communities from across the country will also be able to bid for funding for projects from a PS600 million pot.

North West Cambridgeshire Tory MP Shailesh Vara added: "It is always good news when the Government is able to provide more funding for the regions but I'm personally disappointed that my own region is to receive such a small sum."

Stafford Conservative MP Jeremy Lefroy warned: "It must not be just a quick fix that is a one-off thing over six years. …

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