Towns Fund constituency funding questioned

Robert Jenrick has admitted that he and Jake Berry approved payments to towns in each other’s constituencies from a government fund earmarked for deprived areas.

The Communities Secretary and the minister from his department each gave the green light to funding in each other’s areas, prompting Labour to call for the release of all correspondence between the ministers about the Towns Fund.

It appears that Berry gave the go-ahead for Jenrick’s Newark constituency to be selected for a £25 million fund award even though it was 270th on the list of the UK’s most deprived areas. The £3.6 billion Towns Fund is designed to be shared between 101 left-behind areas. According to reports, and appearing to be confirmed by Jenrick, the Communities Secretary then he signed off the decision for money to be allocated to Darwen, a town in Berry’s Rossendale and Darwen constituency.

Jenrick stated on the Andrew Marr Show that there was a ‘robust and fair’ methodology behind the government’s Towns Fund and maintains that ‘ministers do not get involved in their own constituencies’.

Labour’s Shadow Communities Secretary Steve Reed said: “Robert Jenrick must answer serious allegations that he used the Towns Fund to channel public money to help Conservative Party candidates ahead of the General Election. His admission that Jake Berry selected his constituency to receive funds, and that he in turn selected Jake Berry’s throws up further questions about what went on.

“If Robert Jenrick has nothing to hide, he should submit himself to a full investigation to clear up this murky affair. People deserve to know that taxpayers’ cash isn’t being misused by the Conservatives for their own gain.”

The Labour Party has also written to the Cabinet Secretary to call for a full Cabinet Office investigation into the conduct of Jenrick relating to the Towns Fund scandal. The investigation is also being encouraged to explore why, after the election last year, Jenrick sat on a board convened by Newark and Sherwood district council that petitioned his own department for the maximum amount available of £25 million.