Towns Fund

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:17 pm on 4th February 2021.

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Photo of Paul Bristow Paul Bristow Conservative, Peterborough 3:17 pm, 4th February 2021

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the Towns Fund.

I thank the Backbench Business Committee for allowing this debate. The United Kingdom is full of hard-working, innovative, entrepreneurial people. We are the fifth-biggest economy in the world, and we are a liberal, free, open and successful economy. A great number of my constituents have good jobs based in London, but lots do not, and many have been left behind, in a rich country like ours, even in good times of growth. It is therefore time to invest in our towns and cities that do not or cannot benefit from London. That is why all Members should welcome promises to level up and unleash the economic potential of towns, cities and rural places across the country. That is why all Members should welcome the towns fund.

The fund will invest £3.6 billion into places like Peterborough, Blackpool, Barrow, Torquay, Darlington, Norwich and Warrington. It will more than pay for itself by stimulating economic growth with a focus on regeneration, improved transport, better broadband connectivity, skills and culture. The plan is to unleash the economic potential of 101 towns and cities across the UK. The towns fund has the potential to change lives.

I want to illustrate the benefits of the towns fund by informing the House about how it will benefit Peterborough. The bid for investment in Peterborough is one of the first seven successful bids as part of phase 1. We have already had £1 million for a shovel-ready local growth project to support 14 parks across the city, but it will deliver nearly £23 million of investment for my city overall. Many other cities and bids are looking to Peterborough to see how we were successful. Where Peterborough leads, other towns and cities follow.

I pay tribute to Matthew Bradbury of the Nene Park Trust, the chair of the towns fund bid, Andy Starnes of CityFibre, the vice-chair, and all those who served on the towns fund board. That board includes councillors and officers from Peterborough City Council and me. I also serve on the board, and that is what makes the towns fund different. It is different not only because this Government believe in the economic potential of these towns and cities, but because Members of this House have been invited to be personally involved in the projects and personally associated with their success or, indeed, failure. We are accountable to the electorate and can hold Ministers to account.

Together with my hon. Friend Mr Vara, who represents the southern part of Peterborough, we have lobbied for and supported the bid from day 1. I am sure that is true for many other Members. The funding will create a new library and a cultural hub on Bridge Street and a centre for lifelong learning, as well as feed into the new skills and the technical university that we are building, bringing highly paid jobs back to our city centre. It will give the impetus for the new developments of the station quarter and north Westgate. It will pump money into Lincoln Road, a vibrant high street in Peterborough that just needs focus, investment and, dare I say it, a little bit of love.

In the words of one local restaurant owner, Zillur Hussain, the fund is a fresh start for Peterborough that builds on our natural advantages, as we are only 40 minutes from London on the main road and rail arteries. We have a history of manufacturing, engineering, science and technology, and we have a wonderful, hard-working, skilful population. This fund is the shot in the arm that will unleash our potential.

The fund will benefit communities across the country and Members across this House. It should not be a partisan political issue. It is a shame that some Opposition Members have sought to make it political, instead of welcoming investment in their constituencies, and I hope that does not happen in this debate.