MP Siobhan Baillie has lambasted Green Party parliamentary candidate Pete Kennedy who says the government’s decision not to award Stroud a share of the Levelling Up Fund spells bad news for her re-election hopes.
Pete Kennedy said: “The whole Levelling Up agenda is politically motivated, focused on sending money to areas where the Conservatives are hoping to win at the next election – instead of sending the money to where it is needed most and will have the greatest impact in the long term.
“This is a politically driven fund – nothing at all to do with so-called ‘levelling up’. The money allocated so far disproportionately benefits people in Conservative seats so the fact that Stroud has got nothing – despite having a Tory MP – seems to indicate that Ms Baillie is out of favour with her own party in government.
“The fact that they have decided not to give Stroud any money – despite Ms Baillie’s support of the bid – suggests that they have now given up on retaining Stroud in the general election. Ms Baillie will now not be able to use a successful LUF bid as part of her election campaign.”
He said the news about the bid was “bitterly disappointing” for the District as a whole. “The Council spent a lot of time and effort putting the funding application together. A successful bid would have upgraded Stroud and made the town more attractive for visitors and residents, through projects such as improvements to the Sub Rooms forecourt and the Wallbridge area.”
He criticised the government for ignoring areas – like Stroud – where it sees little chance of winning or retaining seats. “Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, claimed that the fund will ‘grow the economy, create good jobs and spread opportunity everywhere’ and will ‘build a future of optimism and pride in people’s lives and the places they call home’. Unfortunately, he obviously does not think that the residents of Stroud deserve any of these opportunities. Instead of Levelling Up, the Conservatives are ignoring Stroud, while the district’s taxpayers are paying to improve other parts of the country instead. Once again, the Conservatives have let Stroud down.”
He added that the Green-led Stroud District Council remains committed to doing the planned work anyway, albeit now over a longer period. “Thirteen years of Conservative government has left councils underfunded and public services struggling. The council will continue upgrading Stroud, but without support from the government it will take longer.”
Ms Baillie responded to the claims, she said: “I am a bit embarrassed for Mr Kennedy because it appears he does not understand the levelling up bid process.
“His Green Party-led Stroud District Council decided the bid contents and made the application. I raised several concerns, including about the local process it as did some businesses and parish councils. GFirstLEP intervened too.
“The council also chose not to apply in the first round. Many who succeeded this time had failed in the first round but had assistance from the civil service teams to improve. We did not have that opportunity due to the council’s original decision.
“The council has known my reservations throughout but know that I have worked hard to support them regardless, as they have acknowledged.
“Yet if an application does not get through civil service tests, there is nothing I or anybody else can do. The department had hundreds of bids to consider.
“Mr Kennedy would do well to use all his angry divisive energy on asking his council to work on improving the bid. I use my energy and politics to try to get things done for the Stroud District.
“I remain committed to helping in any way I can and have already sought a meeting between Stroud District council and the Minister in Westminster. I hope GFirstLEP will come too as they have a lot of experience in applying for funding.”