Urban Alliance criticises government plans for UK towns
Following calls from the RSN for more investment in Rural Market Towns (see Bulletin 2.10.2023) after the government unveiled its Long-tern Plan for Towns, the Industrial Communities Alliance has added its voice to the conversation.
Analysis carried out by the Alliance, which represents Local Authorities in industrial areas, shows that whilst the government says the money is targeted to towns in ‘greatest need’, the way that has been calculated is unfair.
The findings show that “the selection process has been clumsy”, detailing that:
- If a town has a population of less than 20,000 it was automatically ruled out. This disqualified many former coalfield areas, where there tend to be numerous small towns.
- If a town has a population of more than 100,000 – which hardly makes it a city – it was automatically disqualified too, even if it was in demonstrable need.
- Limiting each authority to a maximum of one town discriminated in favour of small district councils (e.g. in the East Midland) against large unitary authorities (e.g. County Durham).
- In Scotland and Wales, sub-regional caps were applied to the number of qualifying towns. There were no similar caps in the English regions. The effect in Wales has been to limit the number in the Valleys to just two (Merthyr and Cwmbran) even though many Valley towns are among the most deprived in the UK.
- It seems inexplicable that no towns in the East of Scotland have been selected (is this the size cut-offs at work?) or indeed in Cumbria (is this because the big new unitary authorities dilute measured disadvantage?).
It goes on to say that: “The government is trying to target towns according to need, so it would be unreasonable to expect all or most towns to benefit from the new initiative. But if ‘need’ is the key consideration the initiative might have been expected to cover a far higher proportion of towns and a far greater population. ‘Need’ extends far beyond just this handful of towns.”
Chief Executive, Kerry Booth, says this is the exact issue facing rural areas:
“I couldn’t have put it better myself. ‘Need’ really does extend beyond a small handful of towns with a large population. If the government persists in allocating funding based on population sizes, rural areas won’t see a penny. It is time we changed the way the system works and ensure equity across all areas of England.”
Read the report from the Industrial Communities Alliance here.