The government's "Stronger Towns Fund" has come under fire after being accused of "bribing" MPs from financially deprived councils, according to government ministers.
£1.6bn in government money was used to benefit towns struggling with economic growth and aimed to create jobs and boost investments, as well as train locals in vocational skills, a press release on Monday said.
Over half the £1.6bn will go to towns in northern England and local councils will bid for the remaining £600m. Cities in the northwest will receive £281m, the West Midlands will pocket £212m and Yorkshire and the Humber will receive £197m. Communities will have a say in how the money will be spent, according to the UK government.
"Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change — that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control.
"These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them."
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said that the government had been listening to people concerned by "momentous changes to their communities" and was "determined" to provide support for them to facilitate a "more prosperous future" beyond Brexit.
"This major new fund builds on more than £9 billion in City and Growth Deals we have delivered since 2010 to help hard working people reach their full potential and to build an economy that works for everyone," Mr. Brokenshire said.
But critics noted that Mrs. May announced the move a week before MPs are set to vote on her Brexit deal, accusing the Prime Minister of paying off Labour MPs from Leave-supporting constituencies, with guarantees on workers' rights and environmental protections set for later this week.
Critics Slam the Prime Minister's Fund
Shadow secretary John McDonnell said in a press release: "This towns fund smacks of desperation from a government reduced to bribing MPs to vote for their damaging flagship Brexit legislation."
"The reason our towns are struggling is because of a decade of cuts, including to council funding and a failure to invest in businesses and our communities."
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) March 4, 2019
He added that Labour had pledged in 2017 to establish a "network of regional development banks" to finance small businesses, cooperatives and innovative projects needed.
"No Brexit bribery, stable investment where it's most needed," Mr. McDonnell said.
Independent Group's Brexit spokesperson Anna Soubry said Mrs. May's fund a "desperate measure to buy votes" and opened fresh wounds on the Prime Minister's £1bn payment towards the Democratic Unionist Party in 2018.
— NottinghamPeoplesVote (@NottPeoplesVote) March 4, 2019
"Investment in skills and training is always welcome but we need to go behind this new fund and see it for what it is — a desperate measure to buy votes, and sadly this government has a strong record on that score.
She added that the DUP had been secured with a £1bn "bung-for-votes to prop up the government after it lost its majority," adding that Mrs. May was "so desperate to get votes for her bad withdrawal agreement she is relying on the same old trick".