‘Fair deal for our town and for older pensioners,’ writes Yvette Cooper MP

“Why was Knottingley left out of the government’s Towns Fund? A new report has shown that Conservative ministers rejected Knottingley even though they knew it was badly in need of investment and scored highly on all the criteria they set,” writes Yvette Cooper in her latest Express column.

“That’s completely unfair.

“Knottingley has been hard hit by austerity for years so when the Towns Fund, that I and others had been calling for over many years, was finally set up, I spoke to the minister in charge to ask for Knottingley to be included.

“He said he would try to help, but now this new report from the National Audit Office shows what’s really been going on.

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“Over 60 Yorkshire towns were assessed and 16 were chosen to bid for investment and jobs.

“The first eight that scored most highly on the need for investment, skills and the potential for economic growth were all allowed to go through to the next phase to bid for funds.

“So Castleford made it and that is really welcome.

“But Knottingley was ninth on the list and was left out.

“This new report shows that the government chose Tory political target areas rather than the towns that their own independent assessment showed would be the best for investment.

“In other words, they used taxpayers money to help the Tory party and to help their mates rather than to deliver a fair deal for our towns.

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“Personally, I think all our Yorkshire towns need proper investment.

“For too long investment has been concentrated in the cities, while towns lose out.

“We’ve seen it in transport, jobs and public services. Yet all our towns have great history and great potential for the future if we have the right investment.

“If the government is only going to choose 16 towns in Yorkshire this year, they should at least make sure that the towns that could make the most difference with the investment and have the greatest need are on the list.

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“That is why it is so outrageous that Knottingley has been excluded – especially when it could use the Towns Fund investment alongside Wakefield Council’s other planned new investment for Kellingley Club to make a real difference to jobs and services in town.

“I’ve contacted ministers again to insist that Knottingley is included now and call for the Towns Fund to be expanded so all the Five Towns have a chance to bid.

“It’s time the government stopped their party political games and gave us a fair deal for towns instead.

“And pensioners across our towns need a fair deal too.

“Next week more than 15,000 older pensioners in the Wakefield District will face a TV licence bill that they shouldn’t have to pay.

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“The government took away the funding for over 75s free TV licences when it set the new licence agreement, and many of us round here have been campaigning and signing petitions for some time to get this decision overturned.

“When you can’t go out because of coronavirus, the TV is even more of a lifeline.

“Pensioners deserve better than this. The prime minister should do the right thing and restore the free TV licence now.”

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