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Tories slammed over Town of the Year launch... in the city of Wolverhampton

By Peter Madeley | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

The Government has been accused of being "out of touch" after it launched a Town of the Year competition in the city of Wolverhampton.

Robert Jenrick visited Wolverhampton railway station to launch the towns' fund

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick visited Wolverhampton railway station to kick start the contest, which aims to celebrate towns’ achievements in areas such as entrepreneurship, technology, community, enterprise, and integration.

It led to accusations from Labour that the Tories had failed to realise that Wolverhampton has been a city for almost two decades.

Mr Jenrick, who grew up in Shifnal and went to Wolverhampton Grammar School, has insisted that the contest has a broad entry criteria, and pointed out that not all of the areas involved are towns.

Meanwhile Stuart Anderson, the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West, said Labour should be welcoming investment into the city rather than indulging in "political point scoring".

A blue plaque at the Civic Centre commemorating Wolverhampton's city status

He said the Government had pledged up to £50m for Wolverhampton through the high streets fund and the towns fund, and added: "We're fully aware that Wolverhampton is a city.

"There doesn't happen to be a city fund, so seeing the need for investment in Wolverhampton, I was tenacious enough to go after the the towns fund.

"We are bringing investment in – which is a great success story – yet people who insist they want investment in the city are having a moan about it.

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"It's been a problem in Wolverhampton for too long that people seem to have been more interested in blocking investment than bringing it in.

"I want investment here regardless of what it's called, because I want to see the city prosper."

The late Norman Davies OBE, former leader of Wolverhampton Council, celebrated city status with champagne

Speaking to the Guardian, Councillor Claire Darke, the Mayor of Wolverhampton, accused the Government of being "out of touch", and said: "My concern would be that this competition is politically motivated and that they are doing it because there is a tough fight next year to vote for regional mayor for the West Midlands and they are trying to attract support."

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The election for West Midlands Mayor is due to take place this year, in May.

Other cities, such as Worcester and Truro are also involved in the contest, which features the towns of Dudley, Walsall, Smethwick and Telford.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Jenrick said he was fully aware of Wolverhampton's city status.

"The criteria for our towns fund is not as crude as just whether one is a city or a town," he said.

"Of course, as we know, there are some quite small cities. Worcester, for example, is a city and they very much welcome the fact that they're going to get £25 million of investment."

Peter Madeley

By Peter Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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