Comment - Could the promise of funding for favoured areas see Sheffield turn blue?
Sheffield appears to have missed out on government money again, adding another string to the argument there’s little to gain from voting Labour.
Michael Gove said the UK’s replacement for £600m of EU funding for Sheffield will go to newly-Conservative areas - as a reward for switching sides.
Jaws dropped at the frank admission in the Commons.
Mr Gove said those areas needed investment from the Shared Prosperity Fund because they had been ‘neglected’ by Labour authorities for far too long.
Or were they ‘neglected’ because they had been starved of cash by the Tories for years?
Favouritism and blame games is an old strategy.
Throughout the years of austerity we would often hear complaints about projects that benefited Conservative areas.
Here’s one: three years ago plans were announced to phase out the government’s revenue support grant by 2020.
Instead, local authorities could keep 100 per cent of business rates.
The ‘gap’ between them would cost Sheffield £100m-a-year.
Brexit was the big issue in the general election.
But how many voters backed the government simply because it was very good at blaming others – Labour councils and the EU - for hardships it had itself imposed?
After years of losing out, people followed the money. Or the promise of money - because the Shared Prosperity Fund does not exist.
It was announced three years ago as part of a campaign that claimed Brexit would maintain or improve our lives.
‘Your taxes are being sent to Brussels, sliced, diced and returned to the UK with strings attached,’ Tory ministers said.
The new fund would remedy that.
But since then not even a framework has been published.
It was a pre-election promise of jam tomorrow - and it worked.
Now we know the SPF is highly unlikely to benefit Sheffield and might never see the light of day at all.
Labour MPs will be hoping lost voters come back to the fold when the money fails to turn up.
But there will be plenty of government excuses for being strapped, including Covid borrowing running into hundreds of billions, a depressed economy and potentially delay-hit trade with the EU.
Labour has warned of 'bungs for target seats'.
But if promising funding to demoralised voters works, could Sheffield end up voting Tory?