It is an honour to speak under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I thank my right hon. Friend David Hanson for securing the debate.
Why do we need a national town of culture award? It is really simple: it is about pride and confidence in where we live, bringing our communities together, enhancing social cohesion and growing economic and social investment in our towns. According to the 2011 census, more than 38 million people live in towns—about 59% of our population. Yet despite being the majority of the population, people in towns frustratingly feel that they are competing with cities for jobs, infrastructure and wider arts and cultural investment, so it is about fairness, too.
Obviously, I will speak about Batley and Spen, which includes the wonderful towns of Birstall, Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike and Batley. We have amazing organisations, such as the Batley festival, the Bagshaw Museum, the Cleckheaton folk festival and the Batley and Spen Youth Theatre Company. I would love to celebrate all those things, but I also need to say to the Minister that we know that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport understands the impact that winning the city of culture award has. Impacts derived from that award were referenced in the recent cultural development fund announcements, in which funds were awarded to Wakefield, Grimsby, Plymouth, Kent, the Thames estuary and Worcester. Of course I congratulate those communities, but we want to take the impacts of that award much further; we want to bring them to our towns and communities.