Towns Fund

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:35 pm on 4th February 2021.

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Photo of Jane Stevenson Jane Stevenson Conservative, Wolverhampton North East 4:35 pm, 4th February 2021

I am delighted to sneak in to speak in this debate about the towns fund, which is a policy that will accelerate the Government’s levelling-up agenda and breathe new life into so many communities.

As a born and bred Wulfrunian, I was delighted that Wolverhampton was one of the first places to be invited to bid for up to £25 million of investment. We submitted our bid last year and are eagerly awaiting some good news. Our board decided to submit a larger bid, as there is a clause in the prospectus allowing a proposal that is transformative of a wider region to bid for more money. Whether we meet the criterion is, I am sure, being considered as our bid is discussed, but I hope the bid makes clear the ambition and determination of Wolverhampton to generate, to regenerate and to prosper.

I am sorry that Opposition Members are seeking to politicise the towns fund. Wolverhampton has three parliamentary seats. Only one was a Conservative target seat before the last election, and we have a Labour council. I am really pleased that, while the Opposition is dividing the House, in Wolverhampton we are working together constructively on a cross-party basis with local businesses. Like many Wulfrunians, I have looked on as our city has declined, and I welcome this investment, which will lift up our city.

Since my election, we have already seen huge investment from this Conservative Government, with £16 million from the future high streets fund and £15 million for the national brownfield institute. I am hugely grateful to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for engaging so enthusiastically on the towns fund and for putting up with my persistent lobbying. Most of our bid was focused on the city centre, but I was determined that places such as Bilston and Wednesfield, our two towns, should also benefit.

In the very short time I have left, I want to pay tribute to the people in Wednesfield. It is a brilliant place that has been in need of regeneration, and I have pushed at every stage to get local people involved in the decision making around the towns fund. I am pleased to say that I will be meeting some of our brilliant local traders this evening to talk about how the initial accelerated funding of an additional million-pound investment is already being spent to improve the local area. I am immensely grateful for the—