The evidence Government is using public money to meet its own ends is hard to ignore. The latest on the Towns Fund makes for depressing reading, with 22 of 26 places that received funds in the latest tranche being represented by Conservative MPs. This was the very same Towns Fund that led to the Government being criticised by the Public Accounts Committee for its lack of transparency.
But we are taking action to try and hold Government to account. In April, we took the first step in legal proceedings against the Government’s new Levelling Up Fund. This huge £4.8bn fund pretends to be the centrepiece of a levelling up agenda – but we think it is just a way to funnel money into regions and towns of political benefit to the Conservative Party.
We have now formally launched the claim. Our pre-action letter highlighted the Government’s failure to take account of equalities considerations when designing the Fund and the lack of transparency in the process. We also noted flaws in the methodology used to allocate money to particular places. The claim papers flesh these arguments out and highlight the disconnect between the fund’s pretended objects and its real-world practical effects.
But don’t just take our word for it.
In sworn evidence, Prof Danny Dorling, Professor of Geography at Oxford, has noted that the effect of the methodology is to “give significant priority to areas represented by Conservative MPs or representatives, even in circumstances where those areas are on any objective view affluent, and subject to low levels of need”.
This government is creating a system where it pits communities against each other to fight for funding, and where winning seems to rest on whether they are of strategic importance in future elections. The losers will be poorer communities that miss out.
The Government’s response is due on 25 June. We will keep you updated.
We are being represented by Bindmans LLP along with a counsel team of Shaheed Fatima QC (Blackstone Chambers), Joe Barrett and Hannah Slarks (11 KBW). If you are in a position to support our action, you can donate here.