£1bn funding to mainly Conservative seats will look 'fishy' to public, says Starmer

4 March 2021, 21:09

Sir Keir Starmer said the way the cash has been allocated "feels like pork barrel politics".
Sir Keir Starmer said the way the cash has been allocated "feels like pork barrel politics". Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Sir Keir Starmer has said the Government's allocation of £1 billion funding to mainly Conservative seats will look "fishy" to the public.

The Labour leader said, with 40 of 45 areas allocated cash under new towns deals represented by Tories, it "feels like pork barrel politics".

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted it was partly due to his success in the general election meaning the Tories now represent a lot of towns.

EXCLUSIVE: Sunak defends Budget tax measures, telling LBC UK will be 'internationally competitive'

READ MORE: Future spending plans in Budget undeliverable 'without considerable pain,' IFS warns

Rishi Sunak used his Budget to announce the 45 deals "from Castleford to Clay Cross; Rochdale to Rowley Regis; and Whitby to Wolverhampton".

Sir Keir told reporters on Thursday: "If we look at the towns fund there are 45 areas and 40 of those areas are where there is a Conservative MP.

"I think lots of people would scratch their heads and say 'what is going on here?'

"This should be going where it is really needed and the Government needs to publish the criteria for this because 40 of the 45 going to Conservative areas, this feels like pork barrel politics."

The funding comes ahead of local elections in May and follows the Tory landslide of 2019 when a "red wall" of Labour-supporting seats in northern England switched in favour of Mr Johnson's party.

Sir Keir said: "We have no issue with areas getting funding, of course we need funding across the whole of the UK.

"We have had a decade where the economy has been stalling, there needs to be investment, we all want to see that funding going in.

"But it has got to go in properly, to the areas that most need it, and it has got to go in in a transparent way.

"If you end up with a list of 45 areas where the funding is going in and, by coincidence, 40 of them are where there is a Conservative MP, most people would say 'what's going on here, this looks fishy'."

The Prime Minister said on a visit to Teesport, Middlesbrough: "I think if you look at the map, one of the functions of the election is clearly that there are a lot of Conservative-represented towns - I think that is just a basic electoral fact.

"I've asked about this and I'm told that the criteria was entirely objective - it takes in data on poverty, employment and so on.

"We want to unite and level-up across the whole country and want to do it in a completely impartial way, so that's what we are doing.”

Previous allocations of funding through the towns fund have also raised eyebrows.

In November 2020, the cross-party Commons Public Accounts Committee said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government had "not been open" about how towns were selected.

The towns and the amount of funding they were allocated in the Budget are:

  • Bolton £22.9 million
  • Boston £21.9 million
  • Bournemouth £21.7 million
  • Burton-upon-Trent £22.8 million
  • Carlisle £19.7 million
  • Castleford £23.9 million
  • Cheadle £13.9 million
  • Clay Cross £24.1 million
  • Colchester £18.2 million
  • Crawley £21.1 million
  • Goldthorpe £23.1 million
  • Great Yarmouth £20.1 million
  • Grimsby £20.9 million
  • Ipswich £25 million
  • Kidsgrove £16.9 million
  • Leyland £25 million
  • Lincoln £19 million
  • Lowestoft £24.9 million
  • Mablethorpe £23.9 million
  • Mansfield £12.3 million
  • Margate £22.2 million
  • Middlesbrough £21.9 million
  • Milton Keynes £22.7 million
  • Morley £24.3 million
  • Newark £25 million
  • Northampton £25 million
  • Nuneaton £23.2 million
  • Preston £19.9 million
  • Rochdale £23.6 million
  • Rowley Regis £19 million
  • Scarborough £20.2 million
  • Scunthorpe £20.9 million
  • Skegness £24.5 million
  • Smethwick £23.5 million
  • Southport £37.5 million
  • Staveley (Derbyshire) £25.2 million
  • Stevenage £37.5 million
  • Stocksbridge £24.1 million
  • Swindon £19.5 million
  • Thornaby-on-Tees £23.9 million
  • Wakefield £24.9 million
  • West Bromwich £25 million
  • Whitby £17.1 million
  • Wolverhampton £25 million
  • Workington £23.1 million