Fair City earmarked for £20 million "town" funding

River Tay, St Matthew’s Church spire, Queen's Bridge and Smeaton’s Bridge, Perth
-Credit: (Image: Perthshire Advertiser)

The Conservatives have included The Fair City in a list of 30 UK "towns" it has pledged to give £20 million of funding.

Perth was granted city status in 2012 but has been added to a Conservative long-term plan to give over 100 UK towns a financial boost.

While Perth and Kinross Council leader Grant Laing questioned why the Conservatives wanted to downgrade Perth, he would welcome the £20 million for Perth which he felt was previously short-changed - in comparison to other cities - in the Levelling Up scheme.

Last weekend the Conservatives announced a list of 30 UK towns - which included Alloa, Helensburgh, Bognor Regis, Flint and Enniskillen - it would award £20 million to help regenerate. Amongst the list of towns was the city of Perth. However it is not the only city on the list. The latest list also included Preston while Derry/Londonderry was included in an earlier tranche.

As part of the initiative local people - not Westminster - would decide how the £20 million was invested to transform their town. New town boards would be established. Community leaders, business people, local government and the local MP would work together to develop and deliver the plan for their town.

Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister said: "We the Conservatives have a plan for towns because we know they are the beating heart of our country. This bold action will transform 30 more towns – reviving their high streets, growing their local economies and making people feel proud of the place they call home."

Scottish Conservative candidate for Perth and Kinross-shire Luke Graham said: "Following the millions secured in the Tay Cities deal and the £5m of Levelling Up funding in the recent budget, this £20m will be a major boost for Perth and free up funding for other towns around Perth and Kinross-shire such as Crieff and Kinross."

"This funding would help action my positive plan for Perth and Kinross-shire. While the SNP are cutting leisure, health and council services in Perth and Kinross, the Scottish Conservatives are investing in the future bringing new jobs and opportunities."

SNP council leader Grant Laing welcomes the funding pledged but questioned why the Conservative Westminster candidate wants to downgrade Perth from being a city.

Cllr Laing said: "I would welcome any money coming to the city of Perth. With our £5 million of Levelling Up funding, we got less than a quarter of what other cities and local authorities got.

He added: "I do find it strange that Mr Graham is keen on putting us back down a category.

"With the polls showing the Conservatives will not be in power after the election, I hope we can get the £20 million in the bank before July 4."

Asked why Perth was included, Mr Graham said: "It is not a strict 'towns' list, just the name of the programme in the same way the Tay Cities Deal funded projects in towns and villages such as Crieff and Innerpeffray.

"There's no snub. It's just based on the criteria of size and population. Other cities are included too.

"I would always fight for more funding for Perth and Kinross-shire."

The SNP's longest-serving MP Pete Wishart who is vying for the Perth and Kinross-shire seat is unconvinced Perth will ever see the money.

He said: "This is a payout to Perth that will never ever happen."

The Conservatives have said the scheme will be funded by its tax avoidance plans which it says will "raise £6 billion a year, of which we have committed £1 billion to national service and £2.4 billion for pensions".

Sceptical of the tax avoidance plans, Mr Wishart said: "It's a bit rich to offer Perth money that will never materialise. It's nothing other than an election gimmick.

"Up until stage three of the Levelling Up process Perth and Kinross was the only local authority in Scotland that had not secured a penny. It was pork barrel politics at its most gratuitous with Tory-held Moray securing £18.3 million of Levelling Up funding and Scottish Borders £45 million. It was only after they had been embarrassed by myself and Perth and Kinross Council we got a measly £5 million."

The UK Government's Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has outlined its methodology for its selection of towns on its website: Extension to Long-Term Plan for Towns: place selection methodology - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)