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Pork barrel politics

In every corner of public life, the Tories are or look to be bending the resources of the state to their own private advantage.

The Budget confirmed ‘Towns Fund’ funding for 45 towns of which 40 are represented by at least one Conservative MP. And it introduced a new fund – misnamed the ‘Levelling Up Fund’ which plays the same trick again. But rather than using the Index of Multiple Deprivation or some other objective and transparent allocation measure, Government has invented a new, and troublingly opaque, set of criteria. Those criteria boost the funding prospects of wealthier towns represented by Tory MPs. And, once again, the Government has refused to give straight answers to straight questions about how they operate.

We have instructed Bindmans LLP and Shaheed Fatima QC, with Joseph Barrett and Hannah Slark, to take the first formal step in legal proceedings: the sending of a Pre-Action Protocol Letter. As that letter puts it:

“The effect of the Defendant’s unlawful approach is that areas where the Conservative Party has been, or wishes to be, electorally successful feature very highly…” in areas prioritised for funding.

You can read that letter here. It contends a failure to take account of equalities considerations, failures of transparency, the taking account of irrelevant considerations – and it reserves the right to contend, when Government comes clean about the evidence, that the criteria for the fund had an improper purpose.

If you are in a position to donate to the legal challenge, you can do so here.

29th March 2021: Pre-Action Protocol letter: available here

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