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04th Mar 2019

Theresa May accused of ‘Brexit bribe’ to Labour MPs with £1.6bn Stronger Towns Fund

The government tries its hand at pork-barrel

Oli Dugmore

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 28: Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at the Jordan Growth and Opportunity Conference on February 28, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Toby Melville WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The government tries its hand at pork-barrel

The government has announced a £1.6 billion “Stronger Towns Fund” to woo Labour MPs into voting for its Brexit deal.

Theresa May said economic prosperity has been “unfairly spread” across the country “for too long.”

Downing Street’s press release does not provide a period for the cash to be rolled out but the Times reports a four year time frame –  a measly £400 million per year.

The UK’s allocation under the EU cohesion funding for the next seven years would be €13 billion.

AYR, SCOTLAND - JUNE 05:  Members of the public walk past closed down shops on June 5, 2018 in Ayr, Scotland. Recent research shows that highstreets in Scotland have suffered the largest reduction in the number of occupied shops anywhere in the UK.  (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The North West will receive £281 million, the West Midlands £212 million and Yorkshire and the Humber £197 million.

The South West, the UK’s third most deprived region, will receive the second-lowest allocation of only £33 million, prompting local Tory MP Sheryll Murray to complain: “The fact this money appears to be directly routed to Labour-voting areas smacks of pork-barrel politics, and the public will know that.

“It would be a crying shame if Conservative-voting communities were being disadvantaged because of the way they voted.”

Surely only serendipity that the South West has only a few Labour constituencies.

The government said the money will be dished out according to a “needs-based formula,” the need presumably being passing May’s Brexit deal.

£1 billion of the fund will be allocated with the remaining £600 million distributed following a bidding process.

Theresa May said: “For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread. Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities.

“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.

“These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell called the fund a “desperate bribe.”

He said: “This towns fund smacks of desperation from a Government reduced to bribing MPs to vote for their damaging flagship Brexit legislation.”

Still, I’m sure MPs will be grateful for the extra dollar after nearly a decade of austerity.