Sunday, 10 March 2019

Brexit: and the Stronger Towns Fund

The government is throwing money at Labour constituencies before the crucial vote on Tuesday - and very little of it is coming to Tory constituencies:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the Stronger Towns Fund not getting as far as East Devon
Futures Forum: Brexit: and "the government not listening to the concerns of the people of the South West"

Simon Jenkins writing in the Guardian is not impressed:
May’s Brexit bung to the north is pathetic. It changes nothing | Simon Jenkins | Opinion | The Guardian

Some Labour MPs have also not been impressed:

May loses key MPs' support over 'obscene and derisory' pro-Brexit towns fund

One region's allocation works out at £9 per person per year, in a move unlikely to help the PM out of a tight spot on Brexit.

By Aubrey Allegretti, political reporter

Monday 4 March 2019 13:28, UK

Theresa May's offer of a cash boost for pro-Brexit towns has been dismissed as a "failure" and "embarrassing". Key MPs the prime minister needs to win over to get an EU deal through parliament called the amount on offer "derisory", as Mrs May was accused of bribery.

Downing Street unveiled a "Stronger Towns Fund" for less prosperous parts of England on Sunday - with £1bn divided between the regions and a further £600m available for bidding by local authorities. But the amount of allocated, which will be distributed over the next six financial years, has been criticised. The West Midlands was awarded the second highest sum of £212m, which works out at £9 per person per year.

Labour MP Ruth Smeeth, whose Stoke-on-Trent North constituency is in the region and voted overwhelmingly to Leave in the 2016 referendum, said local spending cuts far outweighed the amount on offer. "If Mrs May was trying to bribe Labour MPs then she's failed miserably," Ms Smeeth told Sky News. 
"This is not the conversation that needs to be had about community renewal, which is what I thought we were about to have in terms of a post-Brexit dividend."

Ms Smeeth called it a "derisory amount of money" that would not "make up for the fact that my own city alone has lost more than they are pledging to the entire West Midlands". She added: "It doesn't even actually make up for the money we've lost from the local economy with the roll out of Universal Credit. It's obscene."

Anna Turley, the Labour MP for Redcar, also told Sky News areas like hers had been "left behind and held back by lack of investment" for decades. "The idea that they can now just throw this as a last-ditch desperate attempt to cross the floor and vote for Theresa May's deal is embarrassing and shambolic and really undermines democracy," she said.

Under the new scheme, the funding breakdown for English regions is:

:: North West - £281m
:: West Midlands - £212m
:: Yorkshire and the Humber - £197m
:: East Midlands - £110m
:: North East - £105m
:: South East - £37m
:: South West - £35m
:: East of England - £25m

The government says it will also seek to ensure towns across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will benefit from new funding. Jonathan Edward, Plaid Cymru's treasury spokesperson, said Wales "must get its fair funding share". He added: "If there is money to be invested in communities that have been left behind, it should go to those communities, regardless of whether it will buy votes for the prime minister's dodgy Brexit deal or not."

Mrs May has already gifted Northern Ireland an extra £1bn in return for the Democratic Unionist Party's support to get crucial Brexit legislation passed in parliament.

Communities secretary James Brokenshire said: "This is absolutely not some sort of bribe, I reject that completely. It's about sharing prosperity. It is actually following through on what the prime minister's mission has been, about seeing that we have a country that works for everyone, that all parts and all places feel that as we go through Brexit."

Mrs May's spokesperson said she had always said prosperity had been unfairly spread across Britain for "too long".

The prime minister lost a vote on her EU withdrawal agreement by 200 votes  last month, as Tory Remainers and Brexiteers joined forces to condemn it. She may rely on the help of Labour MPs to help push it through in a second vote expected to take place in the next two weeks. The UK is currently due to leave the EU on 29 March by default with or without a deal.

May loses key MPs' support over 'obscene and derisory' pro-Brexit towns fund | Politics News | Sky News

However, other Labour MPs disagree with their colleagues: 

Why my Remainer Labour colleagues are wrong to call rumoured government support for Leave constituencies like mine a bribe 

I voted for Brexit and I backed Mrs May’s Brexit deal in the Commons on Tuesday
Our concern is what happens to our constituencies after Brexit has happened
Labour criticism of me came from Remainers who want to overturn referendum


PUBLISHED: 00:28 GMT, 2 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:47 GMT, 2 February 2019

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A few days ago, I went to 10 Downing Street with several Labour colleagues seeking more government support for working-class, Brexit-supporting constituencies like ours. But when I heard how some Remainer Labour MPs had reacted, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Comments from those who long to see a second EU referendum that we are being ‘bribed’ to support the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal are simply wrong.

I am just doing my job as MP for Bassetlaw. Far from damaging the constituencies of my Labour critics, I’m fighting to get a better settlement for voters in all areas neglected by politicians.

Let’s get one thing straight: I voted for Brexit and I backed Mrs May’s Brexit deal in the Commons on Tuesday, and will carry on backing it regardless. None of us has said to her ‘give us more money for our constituencies and we will vote for you’, and none of us will be.

Our concern is what happens to our constituencies after Brexit has happened. They voted for Brexit expecting things to get better once we are out. But the reality is that they will not be able to enjoy the opportunities unless we get help from central government.

Much of the Labour criticism of me came from Remainer fanatics who want to overturn the referendum. People like Redcar Labour MP Anna Turley who said the Prime Minister was ‘trying to bribe former mining towns to get her Brexit deal through’. (By the way, according to statistics from the House of Commons library, her Redcar constituency voted to Leave with a massive 67.7 per cent voting to break from Brussels).

Like Redcar in North Yorkshire, Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire was devastated by the pit closures. If I get my way, Redcar will benefit as much as Bassetlaw from the new government aid we are demanding.

Another vocal Labour critic was pro-EU Tottenham MP David Lammy. He wrote on Twitter about those who came with me to Downing Street: ‘Socialists my a***. Cowards and facilitators. History will be brutal.’ I have never noticed David not trying to get more money for his constituents – and to suggest we are not good socialists is nonsense. We have told the Prime Minister we want more of the nation’s wealth redistributed from better-off areas – including parts of London which have done very nicely, thank you, in recent times – to the North and Midlands. I don’t know about David Lammy, but I call that socialism in action.

Pro-Remain Labour MP, Wes Streeting of Ilford North in London, meanwhile, said we were ‘aligning ourselves with Boris Johnson’ and that our actions ‘would never be forgiven’. Well, the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg will be fine whatever happens after Brexit. It will never be as easy for my constituents – which is why I told the Prime Minister that Brexit presents a great opportunity for national renewal.

Wisely, Jeremy Corbyn has not joined in the chorus of accusation about ‘bribery’. He said we were right to ‘demand appropriate resources for (our) constituencies … particularly from mining areas’.

I freely acknowledge it is a strange feeling as a loyal Labour MP to be invited to No10 to sit down and negotiate directly with a Conservative Prime Minister. And it is not only the door to No10 that is open. Like trade union leaders last week, we have had access to a number of other departments in my search for firm commitments on workers’ rights, environmental protection and other issues important to my constituents.

For a start, we need to use the money that came to Britain via the EU’s regional aid fund, but will now stay in Treasury coffers, to rebuild the most deprived areas, which are nearly all Labour seats. This must be a multi-billion-pound, game-changing project: new transport schemes, science parks, high-tech projects, housing developments.

It should be a national fund to rebuild Britain, focusing on industrial towns like mine in the North and Midlands, and some coastal towns that voted to leave the EU partly because they have not had a fair deal from successive governments over the years. We want serious money ploughed into our areas. We aren’t trying to achieve a seat-by-seat deal.

So yes, we are using the Prime Minister’s need for our support on Brexit to try to get a better deal for our constituencies – and I will not apologise for that. When we met Mrs May, she told us she had always been committed to tackling inequality between communities, and wanted to promote prosperity in areas like ours.

We will judge her by results. If she gives a cast-iron commitment to a national rebuilding programme that’s truly transformative in scale, and will help communities woefully neglected for decades, I will be delighted. Will that make it easier for more Labour MPs to vote for her Brexit deal? Yes. But that is not bribery, it’s politics.

JOHN MANN, MP for Bassetlaw on Labour-voting, Brexit supporting constituencies | Daily Mail Online

Here's David Lammy speaking in parliament last week:

BREXIT - MP David Lammy: "Remain in the EU, give a second chance to decide, do not blame Brussels" - YouTube

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