Town of Culture Award

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:54 pm on 23rd January 2019.

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Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 5:54 pm, 23rd January 2019

The hon. Gentleman will be among the first to know. Of course, there are already a number of Government-wide initiatives to invest in our towns and high streets. I have only a few minutes left to highlight some of them; indeed, some have already been alluded to by hon. Members.

I am also keeping under careful consideration the effectiveness of different types of support to help towns and other places to prosper. Wider Government support for towns and high streets includes, of course, the future high streets fund, which is worth £675 million. It was announced in the autumn Budget to encourage vibrant town centres where people can live, shop and spend leisure time.

The prospectus for that fund was only published in December. It invites local authorities to submit expressions of interest for capital funding. There is a lot of money available, so I encourage hon. Members to invite their local authorities to take an interest in the fund and submit expressions of interest.

Of course, DCMS-related sectors contribute to successful and healthy high streets, and it is key that they do so. The Royal Society for Public Health report, “Health on the High Street: Running on Empty 2018”, found that residents of towns with healthy high streets live on average two and a half years longer, and that libraries, museums and galleries contribute to the healthiest high streets. Culture has a powerful health as well as wellbeing benefit, and has a positive cultural impact.

The Government’s plan for the high street also includes the creation of a high street taskforce in 2019 to support local leaders. The Government already run the Great British High Street awards, a hotly contested competition to find Britain’s best high street. Crickhowell was announced as the overall UK winner for 2018, and I was delighted to see St Giles Street in my town of Northampton win the category in 2015. Towns can win, and this competition enables towns to raise their profile and celebrate local efforts to create vibrant town centres that are loved by their communities.