Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham, has demanded Government transparency behind the £80m Towns Fund award, which saw Thornaby selected while Billingham was inexplicably passed over.
As part of the bidding process, Stockton Borough Council requested that Billingham be included in the cohort of towns eligible to bid for funds. This was refused, and requests by the council, local councillors and Alex for the reasons behind this snub have so far been ignored. Thornaby – a town in Tory-held Stockton South – was awarded a portion of the fund.
The administration of the Towns Fund has been heavily criticised for apparent political bias, with the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee finding that the selection process was “not impartial”.
Today in a debate in the House of Commons Alex called on the Government to provide towns like Billingham, who missed out through the Government’s mysterious selection process, the funding they need and deserve.
“The Tories like to talk a good game on levelling up – but this is yet more proof that it is just an empty slogan.
“It doesn’t matter what money is being dished out for by this Government – to the NHS, councils or town centres – Tory Ministers appear happy to pass over some deserving areas in favour of Tory held constituencies.
“Billingham is fit to burst with potential, which the whole country saw last week with the announcement that the Novavax vaccine will be produced here. Tory Ministers celebrated this news – I’d ask them why they think the town, which is at the forefront of our battle against Covid-19, isn’t worthy of Towns Fund money.”