The Stronger Towns Fund – coming (very) soon to a place near you?

Duncan Neish, 12 November 2019

The Government’s latest regeneration programme has ramped up – act soon if you want a piece of the funding action.

Remind me… the Stronger Towns Fund?

You may recall Boris Johnson’s announcements about funding for 100 towns. Three-quarters of this would be destined the North and Midlands, expanding on Theresa May’s pledge and folding in the Future High Streets Fund. It promised £3.6bn funding for transport, broadband, skills and culture.

Last week the Government published its Stronger Towns prospectus, calling local partners to action – and quickly.

So why should we be interested now?

The Fund isn’t explicitly for housing but, as our Great Places programme makes clear, we aren’t just housing managers. We support communities and sometimes whole towns with their much wider needs, including skills and employability. Even where we don’t deliver services directly, we can advocate for communities on barriers such as transport links and poor access to jobs and services.

Therefore, there’s a strong case for selective engagement where it fits with an association’s strategy and, what’s more, it appears there is the possibility of support for housing regeneration as part of broader plans, such as for town centre renewal.

Housing associations are specifically listed amongst the ‘anchor organisations’ expected to sit on the ‘Town Deal Boards’ responsible for developing ‘Town Investment Plans’. These boards are expected to be convened by the end of January – so if you aren’t engaged with your local board(s) and you’d like to be then now’s the time to act.

Hang on, how does this relate to Local Industrial Strategies and what about the Shared Prosperity Fund?

In my blog a year ago, I encouraged engagement with Local Industrial Strategies (LIS). Most of these are still in development and the new Town Deals should complement them.

It has been unclear what relationship the Stronger Towns Fund might have with the promised Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF). This remains the case, and although the Government has not developed the SPF too far, it is still on their radar, and more will follow - if they’re re-elected.

Ah yes, there’s an election next month…

There’s no avoiding the fact that recent times have been particularly uncertain, and that there’s more flux to follow. But the importance of a clear strategy and priorities, and the relationships and capacity to realise them, is a constant.

See more information on eligible areas on the map below.

Find out more about Great Places asks.


Image sourced: MHCLG