Minister in ‘The Thick of It’ moment after denying he launched ‘towns’ fund in a city

PUBLISHED: 11:35 09 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:57 09 January 2020

Robert Jenrick had an uncomfortable moment as he denied launching the government's Towns Fund in a city. Picture: Sky News

Robert Jenrick had an uncomfortable moment as he denied launching the government's Towns Fund in a city. Picture: Sky News

Sky News

The communities secretary has been quizzed after he appeared to have launched the government’s Towns Fund in a city.

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In a moment that has been compared to an episode of The Thick Of It, Robert Jenrick defended kicking off a nationwide "town tour" in Wolverhampton, which became a city in 2000.

Questions have also been raised about how much of the £3.6 billion initiative is "new" money.

Wolverhampton-born Jenrick defended the city's participation in the Towns Fund by telling Sky News eligibility is "not as crude as whether one is a city or a town".

He said that its criteria is based on population size, allowing cities like Wolverhampton to benefit.

He also said: "I turned 18 the year Wolverhampton was made a city, I was living there at the time."

Denying that the fund had actually been launched in Wolverhampton, he said he merely visited "because Wolverhampton is one of the recipients of our Towns Fund".

The fund was billed in September as a "new" £3.6 billion initiative by Boris Johnson.

However, Channel Four News' Fact Check site soon pointed out that the "new" fund is in fact a combination of Theresa May's existing £1.6 billion "Stronger Towns Fund", which has then been topped up with cash pulled over from a "Future High Streets" fund - plus an extra £1 billion of new money.

Jenrick is also launching a Town of the Year competition, which cities will not be eligible for.

The government states the competition "aims to celebrate towns' achievements, including in areas such as entrepreneurship, technology, community, enterprise, and integration".

Jenrick has pledged to visit all 100 areas receiving money under the Towns Fund in the coming months.

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