‘They’re making it up!’ Robert Jenrick’s furious attack on Labour over ‘murky’ funds row

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Robert Jenrick has insisted there was a “robust and fair” methodology behind the Government’s Towns Fund. It follows allegations that the Communities Secretary helped a town in his constituency to secure £25 million in funding from his department. Mr Jenrick told Sky’s Ridge on Sunday the allegations are “completely baseless”. Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds called for an investigation on the matter. 

Speaking to Sky News ahead of Mr Jenrick’s interview, Mr Reynolds said: “So the whole question has always been quite a murky one as to how this money was allocated.

“The secretary of state has questions to answer and an investigation is the right way forwards.”

But Mr Jenrick said the allegations were an attempt by Labour to cause a “distraction” from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

He blasted: “We’re in the middle of a national crisis and all the Labour Party can do is make up political points stories which are completely baseless.

“My department’s officials have been very clear that we chose the towns for our £3.6 billion Towns Fund on a robust and fair methodology that is there for everybody to see.

“We’re not going to apologise for investing in communities who were left behind and undervalued by the Labour Party for many, many years.

“Many of those were won by the Conservative Party at the last general election, but that is a reflection on the Labour Party, not upon the methodology by which we chose those towns.”

Asked if he selected Newark, Mr Jenrick added that “we’ve been extremely clear – ministers don’t make decisions about their own constituencies, that is a longstanding position”.

But asked if he would go to Parliament to defend the situation, Mr Jenrick said: “We’re not going to get involved in party political point scoring.

“I’m afraid this is just a distraction tactic from the Labour Party.

“We’ve answered all the questions and (are) happy to answer any more that might arise. But there really is nothing to see here.”

Shadow communities secretary Steve Reed has written to the head of the civil service requesting a Cabinet Office investigation into Mr Jenrick, concerning how recipients of the multibillion-pound Towns Fund were decided.

Mr Jenrick has insisted he was not part of the decision-making process regarding Newark as funding for the town was determined by another minister.

Labour wants an inquiry to see how Newark was chosen for inclusion in the Towns Fund, and whether officials advised against such a move.

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Mr Reed also wants to know if Tory-held seats were prioritised under the initiative.

The £3.6 billion Towns Fund was a high-profile Government scheme in the run-up to the last general election, which ministers said was aimed at “levelling-up” so-called left behind towns.

Earlier this year Mr Jenrick rebuffed calls for his resignation after he ensured a controversial housing development was agreed before a new levy was introduced which would have cost millions for its backer.

Mr Reed added: “Mr Jenrick has made an unfortunate habit of overruling officials’ advice to get his own way, just as he did during the Westferry cash-for-favours scandal.

“Now he has done the same with this blatant example of pork-barrel politics, with public money making its way to help his own re-election campaign.

“Misuse of public funds is a very serious abuse of public trust.

“Robert Jenrick must come to the House urgently to make a statement on how this money was awarded and submit himself to a full Cabinet Office investigation.”

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