Chesterfield MP concerned deprived areas could struggle after 'affluent' Derbyshire Dales only area in the county to get 'levelling up' support
Chesterfield’s MP Toby Perkins said he is concerned deprived areas in Derbyshire will struggle to ‘level up’ after the Dales was the only area in the region to potentially secure investment from the Community Renewal Fund.
The Labour representative expressed his disappointment that one of Derbyshire’s most affluent areas, the Dales, was the only area across the county to be eligible to bid for the Government’s £220m Community Renewal Fund – while other more deprived areas missed out.
A report by Derbyshire County Council on the economic impact of the HS2 Infrastructure Maintenance Depot at Staveley in 2014, identified Barrow Hill and Hollingwood as areas which had increasing levels of deprivation caused by economic decline – among the top 10 percent nationally in terms of overall deprivation.
The fund is designed to help communities before the arrival of the Shared Prosperity Fund, which replaces what previously came to the UK via its membership of the European Union.
However the Chancellor faced criticism following the announcement of the Budget after it emerged his North Yorkshire constituency of Richmondshire is one of the 100 ‘priority places’ allowed to bid for the Community Renewal Fund.
While Clay Cross and Staveley was awarded money from the Government’s Towns Fund programme this week – Mr Perkins is concerned other areas will suffer after missing out on the renewal investment.
"We all know that the Derbyshire Dales demographically is the most affluent of the Derbyshire constituencies, we also know it's the one that's had the lowest death rate with coronavirus and has had the highest vaccination rate”, he said.
"There is not immediately a cause in terms of that context, so it was very surprising to hear that was where money was being prioritised.
"Not just from the perspective of Chesterfield but more so of the perspective of Amber Valley and Bolsover and North East Derbyshire and all of these other areas that you would have thought would have been higher up the list."
He said Rishi Sunak was ‘unconvincing’ when he was quizzed about the eligibility criteria for the scheme which aims to “help support local areas to pilot imaginative new approaches and programmes that unleash their potential”.
While Derbyshire Dales being on the priority list does not mean the area will secure funding, the region will receive £20,000 to help with their bid.
"If it is a case of minister's simply picking out their own constituencies and prioritising money in those directions then that is not going to be met with support from people whoever they voted for”, Mr Perkins commented.
"It's a particular irony that we've got a Government elected on a claim that they were going to level up but they are doing precisely the opposite.”
The prospectus for the fund said the Government allocated the priority places “based on an index of economic resilience across Great Britain which measures productivity, household income, unemployment, skills and population density".
Mr Perkins added that the investment would have helped ‘make a real difference’ in transforming areas such as the former Robinson’s site on Chatsworth Road in Brampton, as well as redeveloping territory along the A61.