General election: Conservatives pledge £20m each for 30 towns

The Conservatives have pledged to give £20m to 30 towns across the country - a move the Labour Party has branded a "reckless, unfunded commitment".

Rishi Sunak's party said it would add the towns - many of which are based in the Midlands and north - to its existing long-term plan for towns, increasing the number that will receive financial support to more than 100.

The Tories said local people in each area would decide how the money would be spent, through new town boards composed of community leaders, businesspeople, local government and the local MP.

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The prime minister said the "bold action" would "transform" 30 towns, as he claimed Labour's record in government "shows they don't care about towns - neglecting their needs, allowing them to decline and focusing instead on cities."

"Sir Keir Starmer has no plan to unlock opportunities in towns and would take us back to square one," he said.

"Building on our strong track record of levelling up in Teesside and the Midlands, we will go further across the country to build a secure future for our children and grandchildren."

Andrew Griffith, the science minister, clarified that each of the 30 towns will be handed £20m, rather than this being the total investment.

Asked by Sky News how far the cash will really go, he said: "It's £20m for each of those towns. The cost of this policy is £600m, it phases in over the next 10 years or so."

Some of the towns proposed to be added to the scheme include Tamworth, Preston, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Corby, Halifax, Bognor Regis, Newtown, Flint, Perth and Newry.

A large number are being defended by Tory candidates in this election.

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The 30 new towns come on top of Mr Sunak's decision on the eve of the Tory party conference in September last year to award £20m to 55 "overlooked" towns across the UK over a 10-year period.

A further 20 then formed part of the second tranche, which was announced in the March budget.

The Tories said the cost of funding the additional 30 towns would be around £60m a year over 10 years, which they said was "affordable" under plans to clamp down on tax avoidance.

It comes as Mr Sunak launched the Conservatives' campaign battle bus, emblazoned with the slogan "clear plan, bold action, secure future" in Redcar.

But Labour argued the funding ringfenced to pay for investment in the 30 towns was the same as that being used to fund recent announcements to create a new tax free allowance for pensioners and the National Service Plan that would compel those over 18 to take part in either community or military training.

Sir Keir Starmer has said "wealth creation" is his top priority in an election pitch to the middle class and middle ground, as he unveiled the party's plan to get more people into work, insisting "those who can work, will work".

Sir Keir joined shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and deputy leader Angela Rayner in unveiling the Labour battle bus this morning in Uxbridge, Boris Johnson's former constituency.

Labour has said its Take Back Control Act will devolve power from Westminster and give communities a new right to request more powers.

It has also put forward its own Green Prosperity Plan, which it says will create 650,000 jobs across the country - although it will no longer spend £28bn a year for the rest of the decade on the country's green transition.

Ms Rayner said: "Just days ago, Rishi Sunak raided levelling-up cash to fund his teenage Dad's Army.

"Today he's back making yet another reckless unfunded spending commitment, sure to be broken as quickly as it was made.

"Everywhere you look, communities up and down the country are feeling the impact of 14 years of Tory decline: boarded-up shops, soaring bills and a widening wage gap with London."

Liberal Democrat levelling-up, housing and communities spokesperson Helen Morgan said: "This isn't fooling anyone after the Conservatives' broken promises on 'levelling up' since 2019 have completely failed to deliver.

"Their 'levelling-up' agenda over the last few years has pitted councils against each other and left them begging for scraps, and rural areas often failed to benefit at all. We need to see proper funding for local councils alongside more powers for them to make investments they believe in."