When it was first announced, the ‘towns fund’ appeared to have some potential for good. While the £3.6bn pot was far from enough to level up the North, the money could go some way to rejuvenating high streets and undoing some of at least the surface-level impacts of austerity.
However, when news emerged in the chancellor’s spring budget that 40 of the 45 recipients of the fund were represented by Conservative MPs, it became clear that the fund was being used with less than the highest standards of integrity.
Looking into the data further, it appeared that Richmondshire, which ranked 288th for deprivation and was represented by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, was apparently deemed more worthy of funding than Labour-controlled Barnsley, which is ranked 38th.
It seems somewhat the case that the Conservatives are well aware of the favouritism being exercised. Gary Sambrook, MP for Birmingham Northfield, openly stated that a Labour mayor of the West Midlands would be treated less favourably by the government than a Conservative one. Johnson even seemed to indicate during the Batley and Spen by-election that Batley would be more likely to receive funding with a Conservative MP.
It seems that pork barrel politics has well and truly returned under this administration.
Check out the rest of the advent calendar’s entries here, and stay tuned for more releases!