Wednesday 18 November 2020 / 8:10 AM Local Government / Steve Reed

Questions Robert Jenrick must answer about Towns Fund Scandal

Labour has set out the questions Robert Jenrick must answer about his role in the Towns Fund scandal that saw £3.6 billion of taxpayer money funnelled to marginal constituencies and his own area just months before the 2019 General Election.

Labour has secured an urgent question today (Wednesday) on the Towns Fund, after a damning report by the public accounts committee (PAC) into the secret selection process for the Towns Fund in which money was awarded to 101 towns across England in need of regeneration. Analysis by The Times has found that 60 of 61 towns selected by ministers were in seats won by the Conservatives last December.

It was subsequently revealed that former Communities Minister Jake Berry selected Mr Jenrick’s constituency of Newark to receive funding, while Darwen, a town in Mr Berry’s Lancashire constituency, was chosen by Mr Jenrick. Civil servants had ranked them respectively the 270th and 289th most deprived towns in Britain.

Steve Reed MP, Labour’s Shadow Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, will pose the following questions to Mr Jenrick:

  • Did the Secretary of State discuss which towns would receive funding with No 10 or any Conservative party employee before making allocations, and will he publish any correspondence?
  • Why did Robert Jenrick tell his own constituents, “I helped to secure a £25 million town deal which I hope will improve the public realm and make the town centre a more attractive place to spend time in,” despite claiming not to have been involved in any decision about Newark on the Andrew Marr programme on 11 October 2020?
  • Was Mr Jenrick present when Jake Berry made decisions about his constituency and will he publish any minutes from meetings in which the Secretary of State and the former Minister of State chose the 61 towns that would benefit from funding from the Towns Fund?
  • Who approved the 18 taxpayer funded adverts for the MyTown campaign launched by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government that were removed by Facebook?
  • What did Mr Jenrick mean when he said that that the Government would “only” commit £25 million to Stapleford in the constituency of Broxtowe, if there was a “Conservative majority government” and the Conservative candidate Darren Henry was elected tomorrow”?
  • Newark and Sherwood District Council removed Mr Jenrick from its board “following conversations with the government”. What were those conversations? And did they take place before or after Mr Jenrick saw the damaging NAO report?
  • Will Robert Jenrick finally commit to releasing in full the Accounting Officer assessment of the scheme as requested by the Public Accounts Committee as well as the full criteria Ministers used to select towns against the advice of civil servants?

Commenting, Steve Reed MP, Shadow Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, said:

“Scandal-prone Robert Jenrick has, yet again, been dragged to the House of Commons to explain why he misused taxpayers’ money to benefit the Conservative Party.

“There are real concerns that the Secretary of State misused taxpayers’ money to help his own bid for re-election, then tried to cover what he’d been up to just days before a damning report was released.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant: Mr Jenrick must answer these questions and reassure the public that taxpayers’ cash isn’t being misused by the Conservatives for their own gain.”