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House of Commons Hansard
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15 June 2020
Volume 677
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What recent progress he has made on the Towns Fund; and if he will make a statement. [903165]

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What recent progress he has made on the Towns Fund; and if he will make a statement. [903167]

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What recent progress he has made on the Towns Fund; and if he will make a statement. [903182]

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Our £3.6 billion towns fund will play a vital role in supporting our country’s economic recovery, investing in housings, skills, technology, culture and town centres, as we move beyond the immediate covid-19 response. I am pleased that in the majority of cases work has been able to continue despite the challenges posed by covid-19, and later today my hon. Friend the Minister for local growth will publish towns fund guidance, setting out the steps by which Redcar and all the 100 towns with which we have agreed these historic deals can proceed.

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I thank my right hon. Friend for his ongoing commitment to the towns fund, specifically in relation to the up to £25 million for Redcar town centre. Does he agree that the best use of this money is to help kick start revenue-generating projects to secure local government finances in the years ahead?

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I agree with my hon. Friend that we want to see economic activity returning to great places such as Redcar. The purpose of the fund is both to provide immediate economic stimulus and confidence to those places and to set them up in the longer term for more sustainable economic growth and prosperity. I have heard his strong representation for a new horizontal pier in Redcar.

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Local authorities in Rutland and Melton very much welcome the multiple cash injections from central Government, but they are now turning their attention to how we recover financially from this period. Both Rutland and Melton want a significant boost in domestic tourism and high street business trade, so what funding has my right hon. Friend considered for local authorities on top of the towns fund and pandemic relief so that local authorities can come back stronger?

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My hon. Friend is right to highlight the £27 billion the Government have provided to communities to ensure that they have the resources they need as they get through the pandemic. Both Rutland and Melton will also receive funding from the £50 million reopening high streets safely fund as they welcome the return of high street activity in the great towns she represents, such as Melton, Uppingham and Oakham

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My constituency is the beneficiary of stronger towns funding for Workington, and the future high streets fund for Maryport. Across Cumbria we have nine such allocations, which I am sure my right hon. Friend agrees has the potential to change Cumbria significantly. Does he therefore have a plan to join up the teams leading these bids to ensure that Workington, Maryport and Cumbria more widely get the maximum benefit?

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I know how closely my hon. Friend has been involved in some of those town deals. We want to ensure we get the maximum economic benefit from this investment, and so my officials are encouraging communities that benefit from multiple town and high street deals to work together to create a convincing and ambitious plan for the future.

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I thank the Secretary of State for his warm words about my hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire (Amy Callaghan) earlier. All of us in the SNP family, and I am sure in this wider House, want to see Amy get back to full health. She is not just a colleague of mine here; she is one of my closest friends here, and I look forward to her coming back and resuming her duties and rightful place.

Last year, among the backslapping and hoorah from Scottish Tory MPs, the Secretary of State’s predecessor came to the Dispatch Box and announced millions of pounds of stronger towns funding, complete with assurances that this money would be Barnettised. Over a year later, the Scottish Government are yet to hear any more about this. Will he confirm that his predecessor’s announcement is still valid and what the timescale is to deliver this overdue and promised funding?

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I hope that the hon. Gentleman will convey to the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire and her family the strength of feeling and support she has on both sides of the House.

On the hon. Gentleman’s question about the towns fund, I will make inquiries with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and revert to him, but I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the many town and city deals that have happened across Scotland in recent years that have been championed by my colleagues in the Conservative party and which are bringing the same benefits to those communities—investment in technology, skills, heritage and town and city centres.

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I am afraid that that response from the Secretary of State will sound like backsliding. Many people can go back and look at Hansard. There were lots of Scottish Tory MPs in here and there was great promise about some of this money coming to Scotland. If I am picking up the Secretary of State right, that now seems to be being pulled away. I hope very much that this will not be used to shore up what was the red wall. Can he give me a cast iron guarantee that the money will be Barnettised? Otherwise, those promises last year will seem like empty rhetoric?

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The hon. Gentleman is trying to sow grievance where there is none. I have said that I will find out from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor exactly the status of that funding—whether it is going to be Barnettised—and I will revert to the hon. Gentleman as soon as possible.