Tories pledge £20m for 30 towns as Labour embarks on ‘power up’ bus tour

The Conservatives have pledged to give £20m to 30 towns across the country – a move the Labour Party has branded a “reckless, unfunded commitment”.

Rishi Sunak’s party said it would add the towns – many of which are based in the Midlands and north – to its existing long-term plan for towns, increasing the number that will receive financial support to more than 100.

The Tories said local people in each area would decide how the money would be spent, through new town boards composed of community leaders, businesspeople, local government and the local MP.

The prime minister said the “bold action” would “transform” 30 towns, as he claimed Labour’s record in government “shows they don’t care about towns – “neglecting their needs, allowing them to decline and focusing instead on cities.”

“Sir Keir Starmer has no plan to unlock opportunities in towns and would take us back to square one,” he said.

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“Building on our strong track record of levelling up in Teesside and the Midlands, we will go further across the country to build a secure future for our children and grandchildren.”

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Some of the towns proposed to be added to the scheme include Tamworth, Preston, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Corby, Halifax, Bognor Regis, Newtown, Flint, Perth and Newry.

Nearly all are being defended by Tory candidates in this election, with only five being most recently represented by Labour.

The 30 new towns come on top of Mr Sunak’s decision on the eve of Tory party conference to award £20m to 55 “overlooked” towns across the UK over a 10-year period.

A further 20 then formed part of the second tranche, which was announced at the March budget

The Tories said the cost of funding the additional 30 towns would be around £60m per year, which they said was “affordable” under plans to clamp down on tax avoidance.

But Labour argued the funding ringfenced to pay for the investment was the same as that being used to fund recent announcements to create a new tax free allowance for pensioners and the National Service Plan that would compel those over 18 to take part in either community or military training.

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Deputy leader Angela Rayner will promote the party’s own “power-up agenda” with a 5,000-mile battle bus tour on Saturday, where she will be joined by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves.

Labour has said its Take Back Control Act will devolve power from Westminster and give communities a new right to request more powers.

It has also put forward its own Green Prosperity Plan, which it says will create 650,000 jobs across the country – although it will no longer spend £28bn a year for the rest of the decade on the country’s green transition.

Ms Rayner said: “Just days ago, Rishi Sunak raided levelling-up cash to fund his teenage Dad’s Army.

“Today he’s back making yet another reckless unfunded spending commitment, sure to be broken as quickly as it was made.

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“Everywhere you look, communities up and down the country are feeling the impact of 14 years of Tory decline: boarded-up shops, soaring bills and a widening wage gap with London.”

Liberal Democrat levelling-up, housing and communities spokesperson Helen Morgan said: “This isn’t fooling anyone after the Conservatives’ broken promises on ‘levelling up’ since 2019 have completely failed to deliver.

“Their ‘levelling-up’ agenda over the last few years has pitted councils against each other and left them begging for scraps, and rural areas often failed to benefit at all. We need to see proper funding for local councils alongside more powers for them to make investments they believe in.”

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