Stronger Towns Fund

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:42 pm on 4th March 2019.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government 6:42 pm, 4th March 2019

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. He sets out a narrative in relation to the savings that councils have had to make, but he ignores the fact that the last Labour Government had already set in train cuts to local government. The idea that cuts would not have had to be made by any incumbent Government is simply not a reflection of the reality.

The hon. Gentleman sets out various points in relation to the benefits attached to different communities and investment into regions, but he ignores the £9.1 billion of local growth funds to local enterprise partnerships through three rounds of competitive growth deals, the investment of £3.4 billion for the northern powerhouse, £1.9 billion for the midlands, £700 million for the east of England, £2.1 billion for London and the south-east and £970 million for the south-west. He does not mention the coastal communities fund, the home building fund and the housing infrastructure fund, and he does not mention the national productivity investment fund, which is all about investing in our regions and our communities, and ensuring that we grow productivity and all communities are able to benefit further.

However, this is about towns, as I have indicated. It is about the towns that need to see a sense of identity and sense of growth, as I set out in my statement. Yes, on the allocation of £1 billion, which the hon. Gentleman asks me to set out, there are notional allocations to the particular regions, and we want to see bids from towns, working with the local enterprise partnerships, coming through in a very positive way. Equally, as I indicated in my statement as well, we want to ensure that we reflect on the fact that towns in other areas may not necessarily fall within those neat parameters. We therefore want to see bids come in from towns across the country for deals based on their ability to set out their bright, positive future.

The hon. Gentleman listed a number of figures in relation to, as he set it out, cuts. I would say to him, equally, that he well knows that the local government financial settlement this year has a real-terms increase in the money going to the core spending power of local councils across the country. He asks what we can point to in other areas. Let us look at the changes in employment that this Government have seen: there has been a 5% increase in the north-east, 7.1% in the north-west, 7.7% in Yorkshire and the Humber, 6.8% in the east midlands, 10.1% in the west midlands, 9.1% in the east, 22.4% in London, 7.5% in the south-east and 8% in the south-west. This Government are growing the economy and seeing the benefit in jobs and prosperity, and we want to take this to the next level.

The hon. Gentleman highlighted the devolved Administrations. We will seek to ensure that towns in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can benefit, building on the success of the UK Government’s city and growth deals. We will confirm in due course the additional funding we will provide to reflect this new funding for England. This is about the determination we have for our towns—those places at the heart of our growth, our identity and our sense of who we are as a United Kingdom. I am sorry if he cannot see that, but it is actually about investing in the future, investing in our communities and seeing the bright, positive future ahead for our United Kingdom.