Rishi Sunak accussed of ‘pork barrel’ politics over levelling up scheme

Rishi Sunak said the scheme would level up the country (Image: REUTERS)

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Rishi Sunak been accused of "pork barrel" politics after announcing a new £4bn “levelling up fund” to pay for projects chosen by local areas around the country.

The Chancellor faced immediate criticism for the scheme which he suggested would have to show the support of an MP and be delivered before the next election.

Delivering his spending review to the House of Commons, Mr Sunak said the new scheme would “fund the infrastructure of everyday life”.

But he drew outrage when he appeared to hand an effective veto over the scheme to MPs.

Schemes that receive the cash "must command local support, including from their Member of Parliament," he told the Commons.

In politics, the term pork barrel is a metaphor for when politicians use government cash to targer spending at the seats of their allies to help them get reelected.

Treasury officials later scrambled to correct the Chancellor, insisting that the scheme needed to demonstrate local support but it could come from non-MPs as well.

Mr Sunak said that local areas will be able to bid for funds to build the facilities most wanted by local people, such as transport improvements, better shopping streets, libraries, museums or galleries.

He told the Commons “For many people, the most powerful barometer of economic success is the change they see and the pride they feel in the places we call home.

The scheme is designed to help rejuvenate Britain's towns and cities after a decade of Tory austerity
(Image: Getty Images)

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“People want to be able to look around their towns and villages and say ‘This place is better off than it was five years ago’.

“For too long, our funding approach has been complex and ineffective. And I want that to change.”

Health Secretary Jon Ashworth slammed the government – suggesting it was prioritising helping Tory MPs get re-elected over sound investments.

In a tweet, Mr Ashworth said:  "Investing properly in social care is an urgent necessity and helps ‘level up’

"Investing in public health builds resilience and helps ‘level up’

"Giving public sector workers a pay rise, not a pay cut is urgent and helps ‘level up’

"A £4 billion Tory MP lobby fund is pork barrel."

But Treasury officials tried on Wednesday to row back on the Chancellor's words in the House of Commons.

A Treasury spokesman said: "The Chancellor was clear that local buy-in is a core component of ensuring projects are effective and delivered on time.

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Jon Ashworth questioned the effectiveness of the proposed spending
(Image: Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

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"That local support can come from a wide variety of sources including local authorities, mayoral authorities or MPs.”

They stressed the scheme will be administered by civil servants in Whitehall – and would be subject to the same kind of scrutiny as other Government spending.

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The £4billion spending pot is not for the town's fund – of which £620m has already been allocated and £300m remains unallocated.

But that £300m will now be channelled through the levelling up fund, but will still be targeted at towns, the Mirror understands.

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds said that the scheme “involves MPs going to ministers to beg for support for their areas, rather than that change being driven from local communities”.

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