Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced an extra £20 million for Accrington, Darwen, Burnley and Nelson as part of the long-term plan for left-behind towns. 

Long-term plan for towns "will empower communities across the UK to take back control of their future", the Government said, taking long term decisions in the interests of local people.

The £20m will be spread across 10 years for each of the towns to fund initiatives to improve the lives of people living there.

Funding is to be spent on local priorities such as reviving high streets, tackling anti-social behaviour (ASB), improving transport and growing the local economy.

Accrington, along with Darwen, Burnley and Nelson, are among 55 towns that will benefit from £1.1 billion of levelling-up cash, "as part of a long-term plan for towns that have been overlooked and taken for granted".

Accrington and Burnley will be given the opportunity to develop a long-term plan supported by a Towns Board.

Under the new approach, local people, not Whitehall-based politicians, will be put in charge, and given the tools to change their town’s long-term future.

They will:

  • Receive a ten-year £20m endowment-style fund to be spent on local people’s priorities, like regenerating local high streets and town centres or securing public safety.
  • Set up a Town Board to bring together community leaders, employers, local authorities, and the local MP, to deliver the long-term plan for their town and put it to local people for consultation.
  • Use a suite of regeneration powers to unlock more private sector investment by auctioning empty high street shops, reforming licensing rules on shops and restaurants, and supporting more housing in town centres.

The Government added this cash builds on its "central mission to level up the UK by putting more power and money in the hands of people who know their areas best to build a brighter future for their community", creating bespoke initiatives that will spark the regeneration needed.

Conservative backbencher Sara Britcliffe, MP for Hyndburn, said: “This new funding for Accrington is welcome news for residents across the town and we have now received an extra £20 million on top of the £35 million received since I was elected.

"I promised I would deliver in my pledge to get the funding we needed and I am pleased to see the biggest investment ever into our borough.

“Since 2019 the Conservatives have invested £55 million across Hyndburn - a historic investment never seen before and much needed for every person living here.

“I look forward to working with the local council and the government to help level up Accrington and all of our towns.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council's leader, Cllr Phil Riley said any money that helps Darwen is a good thing.

He said: "Over the last two to three years we have been working hard with local businesses and the Darwen Town Deal to make use of the Town Deal money and the evidence is that we are well on our way to turning that £20m into £100m, and any money that helps us to build up the economy in Darwen is a good thing."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Towns are the place most of us call home and where most of us go to work, but politicians have always taken towns for granted and focused on cities.

“The result is the half-empty high streets, run-down 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.

“That changes today. Our long-term plan for towns puts funding in the hands of local people themselves to invest in line with their priorities, over the long-term. That is how we level up.”

Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, added: “We know that in our towns the values of hard work and solidarity, common sense and common purpose, endeavour and quiet patriotism have endured across generations.

"But for too long, too many of our great British towns have been overlooked and undervalued.

“We are putting this right through our long-term plan for towns backed by over £1bn of levelling up funding.

“This will empower communities in every part of the UK to take back control of their future, taking long term decisions in the interests of local people.

"It will mean more jobs, more opportunities and a brighter future for our towns and the people who live and work in them.”

Commenting on the announcement, Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary, said: “It takes a special kind of arrogance for a Prime Minister caught on tape boasting that he had swiped money from ‘deprived urban areas’ to now expect local people to be grateful for a promise to hand a tiny fraction of it back.

“Levelling up announcements from this government amount to barely more than shiny headlines, chaos and delays.

“While the Tories force communities to go cap in hand to Whitehall begging for their own money back, the next Labour government will spread power, wealth and opportunity to all parts of our country.

“We will grow our economy by harnessing the talents, ambition and skills of all British people and, in turn, provide sustainable, long-term funding for councils, and certainty for business to invest.

“Labour will give these towns their future back.”

A Towns Taskforce, sitting in the Department for Levelling Up and reporting directly to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State, will help Towns Boards develop their plans and advise on how best to take advantage of government policies, unlock private and philanthropic investment and work with communities.

DLUHC said towns had been allocated funding according to the Levelling Up Needs Index, taking into account metrics covering skills, pay, productivity and health, as well as the Index of Multiple Deprivation, to ensure funding goes directly to the towns which will benefit most.