Tory councillor in Northumberland 'worried' about future of regeneration projects under Labour Government

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A leading councillor at Conservative-led Northumberland County Council has expressed concerns over the future of regeneration projects under a Labour Government.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s cabinet, deputy leader Coun Richard Wearmouth said he was “worried” about work to “level up” Blyth. It followed newly elected deputy Prime Minister Angela Rayner’s comments in Hexham last month, when she refused to commit to the project to dual the A1.

The new Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government said Labour would not commit to projects until they could identify where the money would come from. She added the party would not “overpromise”.

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Speaking at the meeting, Coun Wearmouth said: “We expect the Government will follow the example of the previous Government and at no stage seek to withdraw any of these funds, which are so critical to getting our communities, and communities like Blyth, a fair deal and to tackle inequalities.

Deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, Richard Wearmouth.Deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, Richard Wearmouth.
Deputy leader of Northumberland County Council, Richard Wearmouth.

“We are a little bit worried. We have heard the new deputy Prime Minister say money for key economic regeneration projects like the A1 dualling are at significant risk under this Labour Government.

“I say that in the context of stories doing the rounds yesterday that Labour Metro Mayors have requested extra tax-raising powers as part of their ask to the new Prime Minister. That’s not something that we want to see.

“What we have seen over the last few years is money coming into this region, not with strings attached – no saying you have to put up taxes, this money has been redistributed by Westminister to Northumberland.

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“We want to be clear that is what we expect. That money is mission critical to bringing jobs and investment here and making sure we tackle inequalities, making sure no town and no community is left behind in Northumberland.”

Responding to Coun Wearmouth’s comments, a Labour spokesman said: “Keir Starmer met with metro mayors from across the country. For too long, Westminster has tightly gripped control and held back opportunities for our towns, cities and villages.

“That has meant misguided decisions devastating the lives of working people, while local leaders have been left begging for scraps. Taking back control beings today, with proper, grown up conversations with regional mayors to help them deliver local economic growth, better housing, education and jobs for local people.”

Coun Wearmouth was speaking on the announcement of a further £19.5 million in funding for Blyth as part of the former Government’s long-term plan for towns. The money is set to be paid out across the next 10 years and is aimed at supporting community and cultural investment.

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The exact projects the money will be spent on are yet to be decided. Blyth Town Board will play a key role in identifying projects and programmes to form a town investment plan, with a “soft launch” expected in winter.

Coun Wearmouth continued: “This is great news and we are thankful to the previous Conservative Government for making Blyth one of the pin-up towns for levelling up.

“This latest funding is particularly welcome as it will help us boost institutions and existing programmes, enabling them to plan for the long term.

“It really is a critical part of making levelling up funding impacts long-lasting.”