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Latest 05 April 2021

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 2019 Towns Fund made unhappy reading for those who believe public money should not be used to promote Party interests. As a leading academic put it: “there is robust evidence that ministers chose towns so as to benefit the Conservatives in marginal Westminster seats”. And the Public Accounts Committee criticised the Government for transparency failures “which fuelled accusations of political bias in the selection process”.

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.

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We will not stand for it. We have now taken 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.

Everywhere you look the Tories are or look to be misusing the resources of the state to benefit their interests: vast public contracts to friends and donors, jobs for Party friends, using public money to pay for political advertising or focus groups, political appointments to key regulatory positions – and allocating resources to deliver financial benefit to those who vote Tory.

Do not be fooled. These are the building blocks for a one-party state. Nothing less than democracy is at stake.

It is only with your support that we can continue to hold Government to account. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so here.