TWO neighbouring MPs have clashed over whether last week's Budget is 'a road map to recovery' or 'smoke and mirrors'.

Blackburn's Kate Hollern accused the government of 'double counting' its grants to deprived areas like her constituency.

Hyndburn Tory Sarah Britcliffe said Chancellor Rishi Sunak had successfully struck a 'careful balance' with his financial package.

Both were speaking in the House of Commons debate on the Budget.

Mrs Hollern said: "After 10 years of Government cuts, Blackburn is one of the most deprived towns in the country.

"We have been under additional restrictions for longer than almost anywhere else. Our high street has been decimated, and going into the pandemic. Blackburn’s health outcomes were some of the worst in the country.

"So it is right that Blackburn has been identified as a high priority for the government’s levelling up fund, and I look forward to working with the council on the further development of the exciting plans for the borough to recover and grow.

"Having read the fine print of the government’s self-styled levelling-up agenda, I must say I am disappointed. I am concerned the money is not going to all the right places.

"My issue is with the government’s double counting and the smoke and mirrors strategy they deploy. Half of the £6million being handed out to councils this coming financial year as part of the levelling-up fund has been reshuffled from towns' fund funding. The £150m budget of the pinch point fund announced in 2018 has now been assumed into the levelling-up fund.

"So when the Government talk about a £4.8bn levelling-up fund and a £3.6bn towns fund, they need to be honest they are playing musical chairs with old money."

Miss Britcliffe said: "The Chancellor has struck a careful balance between the difficult and necessary measures to recover our public finances from Covid-19 and the need to protect the most vulnerable and the lowest-paid in society.

"From the support for businesses, the freezing of alcohol duty, to the continuation of the universal credit uplift, this Budget truly is a road map to recovery.

"There is one aspect I would particularly like to focus on - the levelling up fund.

" My area has historically struggled to attract investment and not been given the opportunities it has deserved.

"That is why the levelling up fund is so transformative.

"With the whole of Hyndburn and Haslingden in the highest category for accessing the levelling up fund, we are now near the front of the queue for accessing this money. That means our chance to transform our area has now come."