The list of towns to benefit from the government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund has been announced. Each town can get up to £25 million for “innovative regeneration plans” to encourage economic growth.
The overall goals are to improve transport and broadband connectivity. However, the criteria for funding hasn’t been published yet.
The targeted towns make up the awkwardly-named “Northern Powerhouse” and “Midlands Engine”. These are government strategies to revitalize parts of England that have fallen behind London and the South.
As an uncertain Brexit draws worryingly close, the government is trying to put the whole country on an even playing field. London beats out everywhere else in the UK in pretty much every measurable way. Extra funding to help areas with “proud industrial and economic heritage” could help to boost places that have stalled in economic growth.
The Fund will help to create new job opportunities, affordable housing, and cultural attractions – as well as improving on these “connections”.
This all sounds like vague political waffle, but the Towns Fund is supposed to be a step towards decentralized government. Local authorities will decide with their communities how the money will be spent, although the final say will still come from Whitehall.
Without any specifics on what the funding criteria will be, it is impossible to judge how much could be spent on improving broadband.
Who’s on the list?
The list of approved towns and cities is available as a misaligned document on the Government website (PDF). If you’re on the list and you want faster broadband, tell your local authority about it. Not many people get involved with local government, so your words carry more weight than you might think.
Transport and housing upgrades are incredibly expensive. If your town puts those goals as a priority there won’t be much cash left for broadband.
Some of the towns on the list already have high superfast broadband coverage. Some places, like Peterborough, even have established full-fibre networks on the grow.
Many people are going to be upset that their towns aren’t getting any notice. Unfortunately, there is no official word on why these 100 towns have been selected.
More funding is on the way though. The Chancellor announced another £241 million for the Towns Fund earlier this week. There are also “ongoing discussions” about support for towns in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.