The majority of towns benefitting from new £1bn funding are Conservative constituencies

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 12:26 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th March 2021, 12:27 pm
Labour has accused the Government of bias (Photo: Tolga Akmen - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been accused of bias after it emerged that 40 out of 45 constituencies to benefit from the new so-called 'towns fund' are Conservative-held.

In a budget announcement on 3 March, Sunak revealed a £1 billion towns fund, intended to fulfil the Government's promise to "level up" the country outside of major cities - with spending focused in the Midlands and the North.

The Labour Party has accused the Government of serving "their own party's needs" after it was revealed that 40 out of the 45 towns to receive the first bout of funding (including Sunak's own Richmond constituency) are represented by Conservative MPs.

While Richmond is in tier one of the new fund, less prosperous areas around the constituency were not allocated funding, prompting accusations of bias.

Sunak rejected this characterisation in a press conference following the budget, however, saying: "The formula for the grant payment for the new fund is based on an index of economic need, which is transparently published by MHCLG [the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government], and based on a bunch of objective measures."

It is not clear where the formula for allocation has been published, with the Labour Party tabling a parliamentary question in search of the information.

'The Government is pitting regions and nations against each other'

The opposition has said ministers must be more open about what metrics have been used. Steve Reed, the Shadow Communities Secretary, said: “This research raises big questions marks over the fairness of the government’s regeneration funding schemes.

“This government should be investing to rebuild the foundations of our economy, but they’re pulling the country further apart by pitting regions and nations against each other for crucial funding, then diverting the money to serve their own party’s needs.”

The Chancellor also announced new northern hubs in his budget, with a treasury campus to be set up in Darlington and a national infrastructure bank in Leeds.