Milton Keynes invited to bid for up to £25m of government funding

    Milton Keynes has been invited to bid for up to £25 million to improve struggling towns.

    The Government has selected 100 towns across the country – including Bletchley and Bedford – and given them four weeks to say when they will be able to submit detailed plans.

    Milton Keynes Council sees Bletchley as having huge potential to benefit from the East-West Rail project that will link Oxford to Bedford and then on to Cambridge.

    If they win up to £25 million it form part of a bigger strategy to bring investment in from developers, and redesign large parts of the town centre to encourage walking, cycling and public transport.

    In Bedford, the borough council has already held a number of meetings behind the scenes to develop its projects.

    A meeting of the Town Deal Board has been arranged for Monday afternoon (June 22) but it is not held in public.

    Its membership includes the mayor, the town’s MP, and representatives from Bedford College and the business community.

    Cllr Henry Vann (Lib Dem, De Parys) the council’s portfolio holder for town centres and planning said: “We welcome this guidance from the government, which will now enable us to finalise our Bedford Town Investment Plan.

    “The Town Deal is a major opportunity to secure investment for our town, build on our strengths such as heritage, culture and wide range of communities and also tackle some of the challenges we face and I welcome the recognition of Bedford’s work to date in being included in the 100 towns invited to bid for funding.

    “The investment plan will be even more important as we come to terms with the impact of the covid-19 pandemic.”

    In June last year the Government created a Towns Fund with £3.6 billion and on Monday (June 15) they published guidance for the leaders of the 100 selected towns.

    The guidance calls for towns to focus on improving transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture to “transform economic growth prospects”.

    Simon Clarke MP, the minister for regional growth and local government said: “Investment in our towns is needed more than ever as we move to the next stage of the economic recovery from covid-19, and the Fund will play an important part in the kick-starting of our economic recovery and levelling up our regions.”

    The Government’s guidance says that whilst it is “keen to do deals” they don’t want any town to come forward before it is ready.

    “There is no advantage in coming first: each town investment plan will be assessed on its own merits,” says the guidance.

    They have until the end of January 2021 to get bids in, and even if entries aren’t good enough they will get more chances.

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