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Towns Fund: Project Delivery

Volume 738: debated on Monday 16 October 2023

We are supporting 101 towns through our £6.1 billion towns fund, helping to level up across the country. I thank my hon. Friend for all his efforts locally in ensuring that the £25 million Dewsbury town deal delivers the positive outcomes that we all wish to see for his constituents.[Official Report, 25 October 2023, Vol. 738, c. 8MC.] My Department proactively engages with local authorities through our monitoring and evaluation process to determine the delivery support they require, including specialist support from the Department where needed.

On behalf of the people of Dewsbury, I thank my hon. Friend for the additional £20 million announced for our town centre, on top of the £24.8 million I secured after being elected. In light of Labour-run Kirklees Council’s financial mismanagement and failure to deliver regeneration projects in the past, how can we ensure that the towns fund monies are used to transform the town centre and not squandered because of the council’s inability to deliver anything on time or within budget?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for being such a fantastic champion for Dewsbury. My officials are monitoring the town deal and working closely with Kirklees Council and the town deal board to ensure that projects are delivered quickly. Like my hon. Friend, I was pleased to see that there is an extra £20 million for Dewsbury as part of our long-term plan for towns, and I look forward to hearing more about Dewsbury and its ambitions soon.

Fifty-five towns receive support from the towns fund in England, Scotland and Wales, but none in Northern Ireland do. The excuse has been given that the Executive is not formed, although that is as much the responsibility of the Government as that of people in Northern Ireland, but given that the criterion has already been set, why has it not been possible to select towns in Northern Ireland to benefit from the towns fund?

We want to see the Northern Ireland Executive up and running as soon as possible, and I think that that is an ambition shared across the House. I hope that when it is up and running, we will be able to help it with the funds that the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned.

We all know that this Government claim a lot, but now they are claiming that they have a long-term plan for towns while continuing to build them without any of the infrastructure that people want and need. Residents of Mid Bedfordshire know that all too well: like many others, they struggle to see a GP or get a dentist, and the council’s budget is half what it was in 2015. The Tories have gutted the elements that make a town a home. Can the Minister please explain why they persist in prioritising developers in our towns over the people living in them?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, but I completely disagree with her. Members need only look at the measures that we are introducing in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which will come to the House tomorrow, to see the huge changes that we intend to make to high streets to allow them to work better for local people.