Govt's 'town tour' gets off to a shaky start

Alan McGuinness, political reporter

The government's £3.6bn Towns Fund has got off to a less than stellar start - with a nationwide "town tour" to promote it being launched in a city.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick kicked off what officials called a "countrywide town tour" in Wolverhampton, which became a city 20 years ago.

Mr Jenrick, who was born there, told Sky News that smaller cities are eligible for funding from the scheme, despite its name.

Speaking to All Out Politics, he said: "I turned 18 the year Wolverhampton was made a city, I was living there at the time.

"I went to Wolverhampton because Wolverhampton is one of the recipients of our Towns Fund."

He said eligibility for the fund is "not as crude as whether one is a city or a town".

"For our Towns Fund, we set the criteria based on population size and that does enable a smaller city like Wolverhampton to benefit."

The minister has promised to visit all of the 100 areas that are getting funding from the programme, which helps towns to build better futures.

Mr Jenrick said: "People have put their trust in this new government and we're making an immediate start to serve local communities and deliver real change, through our £3.6bn Towns Fund.

"I will visit all these areas in the coming months and make sure they're receiving the practical support and investment they need on the ground."

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Mr Jenrick also announced a separate Town of the Year competition - which cities will not be able to enter.

He said the contest, which will begin later this year, will help make the 2020s "a time of renewal for towns and communities".

The aim of the competition will be to celebrate the achievements of towns in areas such as entrepreneurship, technology, community, enterprise and integration.