In Brief

Theresa May accused of £1.6bn ‘bribe’ for Brexit votes

Prime minister has allocated majority of funding boost to leave-voting towns in north of England and Midlands

Poorer towns in England are to get a £1.6bn funding boost in a move that shadow chancellor John McDonnell describes as a “bribe” to win support for Theresa May’s Brexit deal among Labour MPs.

The prime minister said the Stronger Towns Fund would be allocated to areas that had not “shared the proceeds of growth”. She explained that more than half would go to the north of England, where towns such as Wakefield, Doncaster and Wigan voted heavily for Brexit.

However, Labour MPs have slammed the move and said the cash would do little to tackle the effects of austerity. 

Lisa Nandy, the MP for Wigan, said: “If it is a one-off payment designed to help the prime minister ahead of a key Brexit vote, it will fail and confirm to people in our towns that the government is not serious in its commitment to our communities”. She added that towns like hers had been “shamefully ignored for decades”.

Gareth Snell MP was also dismissive, saying: “There is no price on my vote.” The MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central said the money for his region would not even cover the cuts made by his local council, adding: “So it is not a big windfall that will make everything right.”

A Tory MP has also been dismissive. Last week, Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow, said: “It is vital that this fund is not seen as pork-barrel politics, but a way for all poorer communities to benefit post-Brexit.” 

Simon Clarke, the Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said: “What this money won’t do is buy any votes in parliament.”

Anna Soubry, of the breakaway Independent Group, said it was “a desperate measure to buy votes” and compared it with the £1bn the DUP secured for Northern Ireland as part of its confidence and supply agreement.

However, the most damning words came from John McDonnell, who said the fund “smacks of desperation from a government reduced to bribing MPs to vote for their damaging flagship Brexit legislation”.

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