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Matt Western, the MP for Warwick and Leamington, has today (Wednesday 14 October) questioned the Prime Minister in Parliament over the news that the Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has been awarded £25 million for his constituency in a regeneration towns fund, funded by his own Department.
Mr Western asked the Prime Minister if he thinks “this approval process is appropriate, or does he think the public might be right in thinking this all looks a bit grubby?”
The decision to award money to Mr Jenrick’s seat of Newark (which is reportedly the 270th most deprived area in the country) was made by his junior minister, Jake Berry, in his department. In return, the MP claims, the Secretary of State awarded Mr Berry funding for his constituency.
Mr Johnson responded by saying the decision was “independently approved” and jabbed that Mr Western should “have the guts” to make a serious allegation.
It follows calls from the Labour Shadow Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Steve Reed, for an investigation. A report in the Times shows that 32 towns on the list fell outside the 300 worst-off in England, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Speaking about his question to the Prime Minister, Mr Western said:
“For the Prime Minister to continually defend the mishandling of tens of millions of pounds of taxpayer money is utterly inexcusable.
“We cannot have a system whereby Conservative ministers can run roughshod over process in dishing out funds that they administer by scratching each other’s backs for purely political gain, instead of benefitting the most deprived areas that this fund was designed for.
“We need an investigation into this process. The National Audit Office has also raised concerns and I certainly ‘have the guts’ to raise this – that’s why I asked the PM today.
“The public will be forgiven for thinking that this all looks a bit grubby by this Government.”