Towns Fund deals worth up to £25m for 16 Yorkshire areas to be signed by winter
The Towns Fund deals which will see up to £25m invested in 16 areas of Yorkshire will be signed this autumn and winter, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed.
Mr Jenrick told The Yorkshire Post that Boris Johnson's government was "starting to make good" on the promises made during last year's General Election campaign to "level up" the country.
And with the region celebrating Yorkshire Day on Saturday, he said it was time to "look at the opportunities that lie ahead as we begin to move beyond the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic".
One of the ways he said the Conservative government would be boosting Yorkshire's prospects was with the £3.6bn Towns Fund, which was announced shortly after Mr Johnson became Prime Minister.
In total 101 towns across England were chosen to bid for up to £25m from the fund last September, with the amount of money ultimately awarded depending on the strength of investment plans drawn up locally.
The Government says the funding will help local leaders "transform their town’s economic growth prospects with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture".
In Yorkshire, the areas chosen were Brighouse, Castleford, Dewsbury, Doncaster, Goldthorpe, Goole, Keighley and Shipley, Morley, Rotherham, Scarborough, Scunthorpe, Stainforth, Stocksbridge, Todmorden, Wakefield and Whitby.
But the scheme has come in for criticism after it emerged a number of areas in marginal seats in the last General Election were chosen for the scheme despite scoring a low rating on criteria set by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).
Labour says there "are now serious concerns that ministers may have allocated funding for political gain" at the election. And a Yorkshire MP representing a town that missed out on the funding said it showed that "the Tories have been playing political games to help their mates instead".
Mr Jenrick told The Yorkshire Post that investment of up to £25m in each of the successful towns was designed "to boost confidence, and to begin the rebuilding of the economy post-covid".
He said: "And I expect to be signing those deals with each of those 16 communities this autumn and winter so that money can start flowing into those towns."
The Cabinet Minister said other government policies benefiting Yorkshire included the £400m fund aimed at creating more homes on brownfield land, £67m of which is going to West Yorkshire because of the mayoral devolution deal signed in March.
He said this would "fund enabling housing sites to be unlocked in the months and years ahead, rather than building on some of the beautiful green belt and greenfield land that surrounds cities like Leeds".
Mr Jenrick said the Government was "very conscious that a lot of people lent us their vote in the General Election", where the Conservatives took a host of seats in traditional Labour areas.
He said: "Our commitment to levelling all parts of the country remains undimmed. Coronavirus and the economic focus that has followed it should make us even more committed to delivering on that agenda."
The Minister, who has faced calls for his resignation over allegations he tried to save a tycoon millions by intervening in planning decisions, said the Government could not be complacent about the coronavirus.
But he said: "At the same time as bearing down on coronavirus, we will have to get back to our day job of ensuring that we deliver for people in Yorkshire, and ensure that jobs are protected and the economy moves forward."