Government funding announcement for Crawley ‘clear electioneering’

Queens Square in the heart of Crawley town centre (photo from Google Maps Street View)
Queens Square in the heart of Crawley town centre (photo from Google Maps Street View)

A Government announcement of potential funding for Crawley has been labelled ‘clear electioneering’ by the council’s Labour leader.

It is one of 100 towns in the UK which has been invited to bid for a share of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund, the Government announced last week.

The towns eligible for the money are places with ‘proud industrial and economic heritage’ which have not always benefited from economic growth in the same way as more prosperous areas, according to the Government.

Local leaders, business owners and community members in Crawley will be asked to draw up ambitious plans to transform the town’s economic growth prospects, with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture.

But Peter Lamb, leader of Crawley Borough Council, explained that this was the first time they had heard about the fund and the announcement was made public before the authority was even told.

He said there was no guarantee Crawley would get any money, adding: “I think it’s pretty clear electioneering.”

Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Crawley continued: “I have no doubt all the spending announcements will end up on Conservative leaflets and I highly doubt they will take place.”

Even if Crawley does receive funding he explained how it would be capital and not revenue funding, with no guarantees they would be successful in bidding for the money.

Mr Lamb added: “It’s not long term financial planning, it’s figures they [the Conservatives] can put on leaflets.”

The Towns Fund was first announced in a speech given by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in late July at the Manchester Science and Industry Museum

He said the money would improve transport and broadband connectivity as well as helping with ‘vital’ social and cultural infrastructure, from libraries and art centres to parks and youth services.

Last week Robert Jenrick, Local Government Secretary said: “Ensuring that prosperity and opportunities are available to everyone in this country, not just those in London or our biggest cities, is at the heart of the mission of this government.

“We want to level-up our great towns, raising living standards and ensuring they can thrive with transformative investment in transport, technology, skills and culture.

“I will now work with local people from the 100 communities announced today to agree proposals to invest up to £25 million in each place.

“I hope these deals will provide the investment and the impetus for long-term renewal ensuring each town can look to the future with a new optimism.”

The Government said it would soon publish a prospectus to guide towns through the process and set eligibility criteria for funding.