The NEW owl has arrived …


2 February 2020





East Devon could NEVER remain Owl-less …

As one departed another has taken its place …

The new Owl has arrived!

Talons sharpened, eyes trained …

A new light now shining into the darkest corners of East Devon

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In the link below EDDC announces the launch on Monday 30 March 2020 of the East Devon District Council Coronavirus Community Support Hub and explains what  it will seek to do.

It also brings you up to date with a comprehensive range of local services appropriate to the Coronavirus  emergency.

It is too long to post but is a useful reference.

Simon Jupp MP for “Devon”? Mentions Plymouth, Exeter and Okehampton – but not Exmouth or Axminster

Simon Jupp spouts the party line, extolling the virtue of the budget, but can’t find much to say about East Devon – why not? Owl

Simon Jupp Conservative, East Devon  1:54 pm, 4th March 2021

Much has been said in the press about a perception that this Budget would be focused on the north. It may make a predetermined headline work, but it does not reflect the package of measures that will help every corner of our country, including my home county of Devon.

I joined a conference call with local hoteliers in East Devon last night, hosted by the excellent Sidmouth Town Council. The extension of the furlough scheme will help keep staff on the books as the hospitality industry reopens its doors in May with restrictions still in place. Much praise was heaped on the new restart grants, providing up to £18,000 to hospitality businesses. That will give hotels, pubs and restaurants across East Devon a welcome boost before the tourism season kicks in.

When they fling open their doors, the support continues with a suitably Conservative flavour by keeping taxes low to help businesses thrive. The extension of the VAT cut to 5% for hospitality, accommodation and attractions is something I have been calling for over several months, alongside further business rates relief. Both those measures are game changers for an industry hit really hard by the pandemic. I am glad that my calls to extend that support were heard and delivered in this Budget. East Devon’s economy is heavily reliant on hospitality, and the feedback from the industry is positive. I look forward to visiting many businesses across the constituency as they reopen.

While the support for the hospitality industry is nationwide, it will particularly benefit Devon, and the whole county will reap the benefits of several other announcements too. I fought hard to secure support for regional airports after the huge loss of Flybe and the impact of the pandemic. Only one flight landed at Exeter airport in my constituency today, which is not a huge surprise in the circumstances, but the past year has been a bitter blow to the aviation industry. The airport support scheme that I campaigned for will be extended for six months, as work continues on the long-awaited aviation recovery plan. It will take the aviation sector longer than most to recover from the crisis, and taxes, including air passenger duty, need urgent reform to help the industry back on its feet.

On the ground, more than £40 million of funding was included in the Budget to reinstate passenger services on the Exeter to Okehampton railway line. That will encourage more sustainable journeys across Devon and improve connectivity across the county and the city of Exeter, which I am proud to represent.

Another warmly welcomed announcement for Devon was a freeport, which will help to create thousands of jobs across our county. Businesses in Devon will benefit from more generous tax relief, simplified customs procedures and wider Government support, bringing investment, trade and jobs, which will help regenerate our county and our region. Meanwhile, the new future fund presents opportunities for businesses across Devon, including some based at the Exeter science park in my constituency. This £375 million fund will invest in highly innovative companies working in life sciences, quantum computing or clean technology.

The “rabbit out of a hat” Budget bonus was undoubtedly the new super deduction, which will cut companies’ tax bills by 25p for every £1 they invest in new equipment. To put that into perspective, it is worth around £25 billion to UK companies and will kickstart an investment-led recovery—exactly what our country needs.

It is not just our economy that will benefit from this Budget. Devon is home to many veterans, and I am proud to have the Royal Marines commando training centre in Lympstone. Those who risk their lives to protect our nation deserve our support. I was really pleased to see an extra £10 million invested in the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, which will deliver projects to support veterans’ mental health.

There is continued extra support for the lowest paid and most vulnerable on universal credit, and the national living wage will rise again in April. We are also helping people back into work with our plan for jobs. Some 140,000 kickstart job placements have been approved in the first six months of the scheme, with many of those in Devon. Whether it is support for sectors hit hard by the pandemic or investment and new opportunities across my home county, this Budget delivers for Devon and our whole nation in exceptionally difficult circumstances.

The explanation behind the Nurses’ 1% offer – Austerity returns

The Institute for Fiscal Studies and its Director Paul Johnson make it all very clear.


Mr Sunak had three challenges in this Budget – to ensure the right level of support for the economy over the next few months, to set about fixing the longer term public finances, and to deal with the longer term consequences of the pandemic, especially its unequal consequences.

He has done a decent job of the first, arguably erring on the side of generosity.

He has given us a sense of where he wants to go on the second, but he still has a lot of work to do and his spending plans in particular don’t look deliverable, at least not without considerable pain.

On the third he has been silent. No money to deal with post pandemic priorities. No policies to deal with the inequalities that have opened up over the last year between rich and poor, old and young, more and less well educated. This is a big hole in the chancellor’s and the government’s policies, a hole which needs to be filled and soon if we are not to suffer a much worse hangover from this crisis than need be the case.

Extract from Paul Johnson’s opening remarks:

The other assumption is that public service spending plans will be delivered. The big story here remains that the Autumn spending review took some £12 bn a year out of pre pandemic plans in real terms. Yesterday the chancellor chose to trim around £4 billion per year from his cash plans for public service spending after next year. Now these are not firm plans, but they are the basis for the future public finance estimates. They are a very shaky basis.

The Treasury argue that as far as this additional £4 billion cut is concerned this is a purely mechanical change because of a lower inflation forecast. Well up to a point, but it is a particular measure of inflation, depressed by current lockdowns. It does not represent any real reduction in cash needs going forward and it’s pretty clear that, if delivered, this additional £4 billion cut in cash spending will cause additional pain. This isn’t just a mechanical change and presenting it as such means the Chancellor isn’t really levelling with people about the choices the government is making to repair the public finances. 

The actual costs facing departments are unlikely to have fallen. And since the NHS, schools and the Ministry of Defence all have budgets fixed in cash terms until later in the Parliament, this new £4 billion cut will fall entirely on other, unprotected services. Those areas – including perennially squeezed budgets like justice and local government – are now facing real-terms cuts in 2022–23. That’s a recipe for a very tricky Spending Review in the autumn.

But that’s only if you think these plans will actually be stuck to. Are we really going to spend £16 billion less on public services than we were planning pre-pandemic? Is the NHS really going to revert to its pre-Covid spending plans after April 2022?

In reality, there will be pressures from all sorts of directions. The NHS is perhaps the most obvious. Further top-ups seem near-inevitable. Catching up on lost learning in schools, dealing with the backlog in our courts system, supporting public transport providers, and fixing our system for social care funding would all require additional spending. The Chancellor’s medium-term spending plans simply look implausibly low. 

Tories gearing up for General Election in May 2023?

Two related thoughts.

An extract from a Telegraph article basking in the “Budget Glow”, followed by a discussion on what is at stake in changing the fixed-term parliaments act.

Fraser Nelson 4 March 2021

……The madness of 2019 gave us a winter election: voters would not thank Johnson for another one. Spring is the norm. So this leaves two realistic options: go to the polls after three-and-a-half years, or four-and-a-half? 

Just after the general election, the longer time frame looked best. A “levelling-up” agenda was promised, with roads and railways built in the north of England. Such projects need time to bear fruit. When the pandemic struck, it was argued that 2024 would give enough time for the job of social repair to be complete – and for memories of shambolic lockdowns and Professor Neil Ferguson’s misadventures to fade. So for various reasons, time was the Tories’ friend. Or so it seemed then.

But the second wave has changed all that, having doubled the Covid bill to a crippling £350 billion. So we can forget about quickly repairing the lockdown damage and moving on: the costs will now dominate Budgets for the rest of the decade, if not longer. The austerity that Johnson has promised not to repeat now looks unavoidable, with plans to spend £17 billion less on public services than was envisaged this time last year. Hardly the formula on which elections are won.

But the Sunak Budget – which can be summarised as “spend now, pay nothing until 2023” – could have been designed for an election held in the May of that year. It is divided into Biblical-style fat years – the splurge now – and then the lean years, coming in the form of huge tax rises that will continue for the foreseeable.

Until May 2023, the experience of most people will be of economic boom and retail therapy. The economy is expected to surge 7.3 per cent next year, a post-war high, driven by a nation of frustrated shoppers who take two years to spend their lockdown savings. If the recovery goes better than predicted (as Sunak privately expects), the full tax rises starting in April 2023 might not be needed at all.

But delay the election until May 2024 and the post-retail glow fades. As will the growth: it’s projected to be 1.9 per cent that year. And now there’s a new argument: the Tories want the vaccine project to still be in voters’ minds. This is what seems to be driving the opinion polls now: a success that is, increasingly, supplanting the memories of failure…

Boris Johnson may soon have the power to call elections whenever he wants – a legal view on why that’s not a good idea

John McGarry 

Legislation is currently making its way through the UK parliament to repeal the controversial fixed-term parliaments act, which sets the period between general elections at five years and limits the prime minister’s power to trigger an election earlier.

An earlier election is possible if two thirds of MPs vote for it or if the government loses a vote of confidence among MPs.

The 2011 act was passed under the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government of 2010-2015. Its immediate aim was maintaining the coalition’s stability but it also had a more principled long-term objective of ending the governing party’s ability to call an election for its own advantage. Then deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said the act would “remove the right of a Prime Minister to seek the Dissolution of Parliament for pure political gain … for the first time … the timing of general elections will not be a plaything of governments”.

Before the fixed-term parliaments act, prime ministers could set the date of the next general election as long as it was within five years of the last. This gave the incumbent government a political advantage. The prime minister could call a general election timed to take advantage of favourable opinion polls, or may even delay an election as long as possible in the hope that unfavourable polls may improve.

By the 2019 election, both main parties were pledging to get rid of the system brought in by the coalition. The Conservative government claimed the act had “led to paralysis at a time the country needed decisive action”. This referred to Boris Johnson’s failure to secure enough support from MPs to hold an early election on three occasions in 2019.

It’s questionable, though, whether this failure provides adequate grounds for repeal. The act merely fulfilled its purpose in 2019. It prevented Johnson from calling an election simply for political advantage. Any paralysis was as much due to a minority government lacking sufficient support for its Brexit plans as it was the 2011 act.

It should also be noted that an early election was eventually held in 2019, despite the fixed-term parliaments act. Johnson could not convince enough MPs to support an early election but he was able to secure enough votes to pass temporary legislation that would allow him to bypass the fixed-term parliaments act.

So, the story of 2019 is one of the fixed terms system working. It blocked the prime minister’s dissolution power while allowing early elections when there was sufficient support among MPs or parliament as a whole.

A key clause

Now, should the proposed changes go ahead, the prime minister will once again have the power to hold an election at will.

There is also a proposed clause protecting the prime minister’s power from legal challenge. Such clauses – known as ouster clauses – attempt to freeze the courts out of a particular matter. In this instance, the clause would prevent the courts hearing a claim that the power of dissolution has been exercised unlawfully. Courts are, however, adept as side-stepping ouster clauses leading to tension between the courts, parliament and government.

It’s reported that this attempt to oust the courts is a response to the Supreme Court’s ruling that the government acted unlawfully in 2019 when it tried to prorogue parliament for several weeks. Yet, that attempted prorogation, and the judgment that it was unlawful, is clear evidence of the important role courts play.

It’s widely believed that the real but unacknowledged reason for trying to prorogue parliament for so long in 2019 was to avoid parliamentary scrutiny at a crucial stage in the UK’s exit from the EU. That is, the government’s willingness to ignore constitutional, political and legal restraints for short-term political gain does not demonstrate the problem of courts ruling on the legality of government actions. It instead shows the necessity of the courts as a safeguard against abuse of governmental power.

Of course, the legal challenge in 2019 was not in response to an election being called. But the judgment in that case illustrated the courts’ willingness to intervene to keep the government in check. This explains the ouster clause – it’s an attempt to give the prime minister as much freedom as possible to call an election without interference by the courts.

The ouster clause is also part of a worrying pattern by the present government to insulate itself from political, media and judicial scrutiny. It has recently even launched a review of judicial review, the process by which the courts ensure that governmental power is exercised lawfully.

There should, then, be serious doubts about reinstating the prime minister’s dissolution power. The current government’s willingness to act in ways unprecedented in modern times for short-term gain suggests it is not a good idea. For mature democracies, it’s surely preferable for elections to be at set intervals with early elections permitted if directly elected MPs, rather than the indirectly elected prime minister, decide.

BREAKING: Court Order shows Boris Johnson misled Parliament over Covid contracts – Good Law Project

3 days after the High Court ruled Government had acted unlawfully by failing to publish Covid contracts, Boris Johnson stood up in the House of Commons and reassured MPs and the public that all Covid-related contracts were “on the record”. However, the final Order handed down by the Judge today shows that what the Prime Minister told the House was not true.

The Judge confirmed:

“The Defendant has published 608 out of 708 relevant contracts for supplies and services relating to COVID-19 awarded on or before 7 October 2020. In some or all of these cases, the Defendant acted unlawfully by failing to publish the contracts within the period set out in the Crown Commercial Service’s Publication of Central Government Tenders and Contracts: Central Government Transparency Guidance Note (November 2017).”

Remarkably, the Judge’s Order is based on Government’s own figures – so at the same time as Johnson was falsely reassuring MPs, Government lawyers were preparing a statement contradicting him – revealing 100 contracts and dozens of Contract Award Notices were missing from the public record. You can read the final Court Order here and consequential judgment in full here

Over the course of our judicial review, Government made no less than four attempts to provide an accurate witness statement setting out the number of contracts and Contract Award Notices that had been published late – and they kept getting it wrong. As late as the hearing itself, they said they had published 28% of Contract Award Notices within the 30 day legal limit. 

But when asked by the Judge to follow up with evidence of the figures so he could make his final Order, it transpired that Government had actually only published 3% of CANs in the legal timeframe

Government has not only misled Parliament and placed inaccurate information before the Court, it has misled the country. 

Unless contract details are published they cannot be properly scrutinised – there’s no way of knowing where taxpayers’ money is going and why. Billions have been spent with those linked to the Conservative Party and vast sums wasted on PPE that isn’t fit for purpose. 

We have a Government, and a Prime Minister, contemptuous of transparency and apparently allergic to accountability. The very least that the public deserves now is the truth. 

It is only with your support that we can continue to hold Government to account. If you would like to make a donation, you can do so here.

Vandal damages public toilet in Budleigh

This is totally shocking.

East Devon, over the past year, has spent an exorbitant sum of Council Tax money on rubbish collection and toilet cleaning, up to three times a day, during the pandemic, with little benefit coming to the tourist industry.

This is an affront to us all.

Sam Sterrett 

Photo: East Devon District Council

The facility in Budleigh has been closed

A public toilet at Limekiln, in Budligh, was criminally damaged last week. The photo above shows the full extend of damage, with pieces of the toilet shattered across the floor.

East Devon District Council, who shared the post via Facebook, were forced to close the toilet. The said they currently have no date for repair – but they’ll update the public once they do.

If you have any information regarding the vandalism, please report to Devon and Cornwall police via 101.

Devon areas where more than half of all adults have had vaccine

More than half of all adults in East Devon, Torbay and West Devon have now had their first Covid-19 vaccine.

Daniel Clark 

The statistics, which provide the position as of February 28, show that there have been 461,165 vaccines delivered in Devon, with 445,074 of them being the first dose. Just under 50,000 vaccinations were carried out in the last week.

Across the whole of Devon, which will have risen in the most recent days, are by far the highest number of vaccinations for any of the regions within the South West and they show that 44.5 per cent of the adult population had received their first jab. This is up on the 39.1 per cent as of February 21.

In Cornwall, 216,072 people have had their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, 46.8 per cent of the adult population, up from 39.3 per cent as of last week.

The statistics show that as of Sunday, in Devon, 99.6 per cent of over 80s, 100 per cent of 75-79s, 95.6 per cent of 70-74s, and 79.4 per cent of 65-69s had received one dose, based on the 2019 ONS population estimates.

In Cornwall, 98.4 per cent of over 80s, 100 per cent of 75-79s, 94.7 per cent of 70-74s and 83.9 per cent of 65-69s had their first vaccine.

Of the total population of Devon, 16,091 people, 1.6 per cent of adults, have also had their second dose, with 11,325 in Cornwall, 2.4 per cent of adults.

And figures also show the number of vaccines that have been delivered in each local authority, as well as in the MSOA area.

In every single local authority in Devon and Cornwall, more than a third of all adults have had at least one dose, and in East Devon, Torbay and West Devon, it is more than half.

Of the adult population, 46.8 per cent in Cornwall, 52.6 per cent in East Devon, 35 per cent in Exeter, 46.8 per cent in the Isles of Scilly, 43.8 per cent in Mid Devon, 48.4 per cent in North Devon, 38.9 per cent in Plymouth, 48.6 per cent in South Hams, 48.5 per cent in Teignbridge, 50.2 per cent in Torbay, 48.9 per cent in Torridge, and 53.4 per cent in West Devon, have had one dose. These figures are as of February 28 and so will have risen in recent days.

Nurses’ union anger over ‘pitiful’ 1% NHS pay rise

The government can expect a “backlash” if it goes ahead with a proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff in England next year, a nursing union has warned.

Is the Government Tone Deaf? – Owl 

The health department has made the recommendation in a submission to the independent panel that advises on NHS salaries.

The Royal College of Nursing called the suggested rise “pitiful” and said nurses should be getting 12.5% more.

NHS staff have been excluded from a pay freeze for most public sector workers.

The NHS Pay Review Body is due to recommend salary levels for health service staff before early May, before ministers then make a final decision.

In its submission, the health department said awarding NHS staff a “headline” pay increase of more than 1% “would require re-prioritisation”.

Health department officials said the Covid pandemic had placed a “huge strain” on NHS finances, whilst the economic outlook “remains uncertain”.

They added that this increase was still above the CPI rate of inflation, whilst some staff would see a higher rise under a previously agreed three-year deal.

Some 1.3 million public sector workers will see a pay freeze next year, while those earning less than £24,000 guaranteed a pay rise of at least £250.

image captionThe PM and his fiancee Carrie Symonds outside 10 Downing Street joining in clap for carers in May

Speaking on BBC’s Question Time, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he was sure the pay round “has been discussed and established at the right level”.

“No one is doubting that the NHS hasn’t been absolutely first class in this pandemic. What I am suggesting is that the whole economy has been under pressure,” he added.

But Labour said a 1% increase for NHS staff was “the ultimate kick in teeth to our NHS heroes who have done so much to keep us safe over the past year”.

The party’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said staff “deserve a fair pay rise,” adding the proposal was “an absolute insult”.

2px presentational grey line
Analysis box by Hugh Pym, health editor

NHS pay in England has been out of the news since 2018 when a three year deal was agreed and welcomed by unions.

But the issue is firmly back on the agenda with a new deal needed for the upcoming financial year.

This is just the start of the process.

The government has made its submission to the NHS Pay Review Body. But the fact that ministers think a 1% pay rise is reasonable has angered health unions.

They see it as scant reward for the huge efforts of staff during the pandemic.

Government sources say that inflation is so low that 1% still represents a real terms increase and that public finances are constrained.

This is shaping up to be a tense few months with pay added to the many difficult issues facing the NHS.

2px presentational grey line

RCN Chief Executive Dame Donna Kinnair said the government was “dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public”.

“Nursing staff would feel they are being punished and made to pay for the cost of the pandemic. It is a political decision to underfund and undervalue nursing staff.

“With the time remaining before the Pay Review Body recommendation, the government can expect a backlash from a million NHS workers. Taxpayers are supportive of a significant and fair pay rise for NHS workers – this year of all years.”

One nurse, Carmel O’Boyle, said she was “disgusted”.

“We just want something that reflects the work that we do. We want a fair wage and I don’t think the government understands at all what the nursing workforce does,” she said.

“I understand it is a very difficult year for the whole world… but this is a political decision,” she added.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the recommendation was “a kick in the teeth”.

Its chair of council, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, accused the government of a “total dereliction” of its “moral duty and obligation to a workforce that is keeping the NHS on its feet and patients alive”.

He said: “Throughout the pandemic, doctors have cared for more critically ill patients than was ever thought possible and worked round the clock despite suffering from extreme stress and exhaustion.

“The government should demonstrate that it recognises the contribution of a workforce that has literally kept this country alive for the past 10 months.”

A government spokesperson said they would “consider carefully” the recommendations made by the NHS Pay Review Body when it reports in the spring.

The government “will continue to provide pay rises for NHS workers”, despite the wider freeze on pay in the rest of the public sector, the spokesperson said.

They added multi-year pay deals had delivered a pay rise of over 12% for newly qualified nurses, and will increase junior doctors’ pay scales by 8.2%.

Tell the government to extend FOI to contractors

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act is essential to holding the government accountable. But it’s being undermined by a major loophole: it doesn’t apply to government contractors.

Will you help get FOI extended to government contractors?

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act is essential to holding the government accountable. But it’s being undermined by a major loophole: it doesn’t apply to government contractors.

Since the Act was passed, outsourcing has vastly expanded. Government now spends £292bn a year buying goods and services – more than a third of all public expenditure. Private companies like Serco, G4S and Capita receive millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money, but because they’re not subject to FOI we can’t properly hold them to account.

During the pandemic £10.5bn of government contracts were awarded without competitive tender and hundreds of millions was spent on “potentially unsuitable” PPE according to the National Audit Office, the spending watchdog. It also found that suppliers with political connections were 10 times more likely to receive government contracts.

Access to contractor-held information depends on the public authority and contractor agreeing to clauses in the contract which permit it – a totally unacceptable situation that allows vital information to be withheld from the public.

We think the FOI Act should be extended to cover all contractor-held information via an FOI request to the public authority. Major contractors should be required to answer requests directly.

Support for bringing contractors under FOI has come from:

  • The Information Commissioner, who enforces the FOI Act. 
  • The House of Commons Public Administration & Constitutional Affairs Committee 
  • The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee 
  • The Committee on Standards in Public Life 
  • The government appointed Independent Commission on Freedom of Information 
  • The UK Anti-Corruption Coalition, which brings together 18 of the UK’s leading anti-corruption organisations 
  • The Open Government Network of civil society organisations

But we need to show there is huge public support for it too. This is where you can help:

Thank you!

Katherine Gundersen

Campaign for Freedom of Information

Tories accused of levelling up ‘stitch-up’ over regional deprivation fund

A fund intended to boost the UK’s most deprived places appears overwhelmingly skewed towards Tory-held areas, with dozens of Conservative regions in the top tier for assistance despite being relatively affluent, a Guardian analysis has found.

Peter Walker

Among 93 English regions placed in the priority group of three tiers to receive money from the £4.8bn levelling up fund, 31 are included while not being ranked as in the top third most deprived places by average deprivation score.

Of these 31, 26 are entirely represented by Conservative MPs, with the others having at least one Tory MP.

Among the remaining five is Canterbury, is a highly marginal Labour-Conservative seat.

Labour described the way the fund was allocated as “divide and rule”, and called on ministers to publish the criteria for the tiers. One MP whose area was excluded from the top tier called the decision “a stitch-up”.

Four places are in the uppermost level for funding despite being ranked in the bottom third of English regions by deprivation score, the analysis found. All those areas have Conservative MPs.

One area is Richmondshire in North Yorkshire, where the local MP is Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, whose own department is leading work on the fund. This is among the top fifth of most prosperous places in England by the average deprivation score.

The analysis will add weight to complaints about “pork barrel politics” within Sunak’s budget on Wednesday. It included money for two other funds, both of which appear also to lean towards Conservative-held areas.

The chancellor announced £1bn in extra money for an existing towns fund, intended to help struggling areas. Of the 45 new grants unveiled this week, 39 will go to towns with a Conservative MP.

Finally, a community renewal fund, with a total spend of £220m, will also benefit Sunak’s Richmondshire region. In all, seven areas represented by cabinet ministers are among the 100 areas targeted for help.

Dan Jarvis, mayor of the Sheffield city region and the Labour MP for Barnsley Central, said the government’s treatment of the levelling up fund was “symbolic of their divide and rule approach”, noting that while Richmondshire was in the top level, Sheffield and Barnsley – both of which have notably higher deprivation levels – were in tier 2.

Jarvis called for the funding metric to be published: “It’s yet again proof that this government’s actions are levelling South Yorkshire down, pushing our region and some of the poorest places in the north to the back of the queue for investment.”

Paul Dennett, the Labour mayor of Salford, said he could not understand why his city was tier 2 for the fund: “Salford is the 18th most deprived area in the country according to government’s own index of multiple deprivation. We would have fully expected Salford to have been included in category 1.”

While the levelling up fund also covers Scotland and Wales, deprivation statistics between the nations are not directly comparable, meaning the Guardian analysis only covers England.

However, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts, said she could not understand why Gwynedd, in north-west Wales, which includes her Dwyfor Meirionnydd constituency, was put in the lowest tier for help, saying that earlier EU funds prioritised it as among the least developed areas in Europe.

She said: “Our public money is being snatched for the budget of Tory bungs. This is not levelling up but a stitch-up.”

Boris Johnson was asked on Thursday about the allocation of the towns fund towards Conservative seats, arguing that his party’s win in the 2019 election meant “there are a lot of Conservative-represented towns”.

Speaking to reporters on a visit to Teesport in north-east England, he said: “I’ve asked about this and I’m told that the criteria was entirely objective – it takes in data on poverty, employment and so on.”

The row has been exacerbated by apparent confusion in government over how the decision to allocate spending had been made.

While Sunak had told a post-budget press conference that the metric was “based on an index of economic need, which is transparently published”, an apparent reference to the levelling-up fund, the fund’s official prospectus, says this information is coming “shortly”. Treasury sources were unable to say how long this might be.

A Treasury spokesman said: “The bandings do not represent eligibility criteria – and money will be allocated to the areas most in need. Further technical details will be published by the government in due course.”

The metrics for the towns fund also appear somewhat open to interpretation. While a wider pool of 541 eligible towns was selected based on official deprivation levels, further selection was down to factors including what was called “strategic alignment with government priorities”, investment opportunities, and other indicators of need.

Similarly, the formula for deciding who received money from the community renewal fund was also somewhat qualitative, based on an assessment by the housing ministry of seven “strategic fit considerations”.

Towns Fund recipients March 2021 – but don’t bother looking for anything local

(Unless your’e “three homes” Robert Jenrick MP for Newark)

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government

This list consists of 45 of the 101 Towns Fund areas who have had their funding confirmed at part of Budget, announced by the Chancellor on Wednesday 3 March 2021. Funding equates to £1.02 billion in total.

[A National Audit Office report released in July revealed 61 of the 101 towns in the original list were chosen by ministers led by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick – and all but one of these were either Tory-held seats or targets, including his own of Newark. Meg Hillier, chair of the powerful Commons Public Accounts Committee, accused the Government of “cherry-picking” which areas received funds. So the “cherry-picking” has become even more selective. – Owl]

Clay Cross£24.1m
Great Yarmouth£20.1m
Milton Keynes£22.7m
Rowley Regis£19m
Staveley (Derbyshire)£25.2m
West Bromwich£25m