Aberdeenshire overlooked in Sunak’s town centre spending spree


PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak has unveiled a £1.1billion fund to support 55 “overlooked” town centres – but he appears to have overlooked Aberdeenshire.

Seven Scottish towns will each be given £20million to regenerate high streets and tackle anti-social behaviour, it was confirmed yesterday.

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The prime minister said the 10-year deal would put “funding in the hands of local people” to improve communities.

However, the move has been branded a political ploy and “barely more than shiny headlines” by opposition parties.

The money will go to Greenock, Irvine, Kilmarnock, Coatbridge, Clydebank, Dumfries and Elgin.

The towns are among a total of 55 across the UK set to share £1.1bn from the levelling up fund which must be spent over a decade.

However, there is nothing for Aberdeenshire towns like Stonehaven, Inverurie and Ellon.

Mr Sunak made the announcement ahead of the start of the Conservative party conference in Manchester.

He said politicians had focused on cities while taking towns “for granted”.

“The result is the half-empty high streets, rundown shopping centres and anti-social behaviour that undermine many towns’ prosperity and hold back people’s opportunity – and without a new approach, these problems will only get worse.”

The prime minister added the money would put funding “in the hands of local people” adding “that is how we level up.”

But the announcement has sparked accusations in Scotland that it bypasses Holyrood by directly awarding the money to local authority areas.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross denied the funding – which will benefit Elgin in his own Moray constituency – was a political ploy ahead of the next general election.

The Scottish Government said it welcomed all extra funding for Scotland, but “it would be much better if provided to the Scottish government via the Barnett Formula in the normal manner”.

A spokesperson said: “It is extremely disappointing that we have not been consulted on how the investment could be prioritised to complement our ongoing work, and we are unclear on how the priority locations have been identified.

“We will nevertheless work with the UK government and local authorities to ensure the impact of this investment can be properly realised.

“We have already been working with local authorities to revitalise our town centres. Scotland was the first part of the UK to make a commitment to a Town Centre Action Plan and to adopt a town centre first principle, backed by funding from our £325m Place Based Investment Programme.”

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