REGARDLESS of a national argument over selection criteria for towns chosen to share billions of pounds of regeneration funding, Calderdale politicians are determined it will be put to good use in two towns which have been selected.

Todmorden and Brighouse were chosen to share a £3.6bn regeneration fund despite being deemed “low-priority” under the Government’s own criteria, a report by the National Audit Office recently revealed.

They were in “battleground” seats at last year’s General Election, with Labour raising concerns that “ministers may have allocated funding for political gain” at the 2019 General Election – claims refuted by the Government which says the process was comprehensive, robust and fair.

Calder Valley MP, Conservative Craig Whittaker, was critical of Calderdale Council investment which he said was Halifax-centric and the Towns Fund cash – up to £25 million could be awarded to both depending on scheme approval – would stimulate both.

What people want to see in Shipley using £25m towns fund

“The council has borrowed tens of millions of pounds to spend on capital projects in Halifax such as the Piece Hall, Square Chapel, Central Library, Princess Buildings, not to mention a new leisure centre and train station currently in their initial stages of design.

“As a result, smaller towns in the Calder Valley have been forgotten and have missed out on opportunities to regenerate and prosper.

“This Government recognises these small towns which have proud industrial and economic heritage, and I am delighted that Brighouse and Todmorden have been offered the opportunity to thrive with this transformative investment.

“I am honoured to be serving on both Town Boards and working closely with local leaders to invest up to £25 million in each place,” he said.

Leader of Calderdale Council, Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said the council had done a good job securing extra investment into Calderdale towns with successful bids to the High Streets Fund for Halifax and Elland, and to the High Streets Heritage Action Zone for Sowerby Bridge, as well as then being picked by the Government for funding for Brighouse and Todmorden.

“We’re ambitious for the future of our towns, so I welcome investment through whatever route possible.

“I do however understand the anger of towns who were not selected for the Towns Fund.

“In principle, it would be better if the Government allocated funding to each area based on a clear understanding of their needs for long term investment, rather than creating a plethora of different schemes all with their own rules and criteria.

“However we will continue to work to make sure that however the funds are allocated, they are used to improve our towns and make Calderdale a thriving, resilient and attractive place to work, live and visit,” he said.

Ward councillors were most concerned that funding would help their communities.

Todmorden ward councillor Coun Susan Press (Lab) said: “It is true there are many places in West Yorkshire which could benefit from financial help from national government and I really wish this funding opportunity was available to all of them.

“However our role as elected representatives of local communities is to get the best outcome we can for our towns and we will be working as hard as we can, in partnership with the voluntary and private sector, to achieve that.”

Brighouse ward councillor Coun Howard Blagbrough (Con) said: “This money could not have come at a better time, what with the current situation.

“Invested wisely, this can have a long lasting impact on the town centre.

“The Brighouse Town Board has already been working on a long term vision for the Town, and this money will go a long way to seeing some of the visions become a reality.

“It is essential that we get on and develop these plans effectively.”

Two Bradford towns were also awarded funding under the Towns Fund. According to the new report, Shipley was deemed a "medium priority" town and Keighley a "high priority" town.

The two towns, which were also battleground constituencies, will share a potential £25 million pot of regeneration cash.