Two Ayrshire towns have been handed a huge £20million funding boost.
Officials said that funding was for towns across the country that have been “overlooked and taken for granted”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said today that the funding priorities will be decided by local people with the UK Government set to work with councils on how the cash will be spent.
Kilmarnock and Irvine are two of just 55 towns chosen for the investment with only seven in Scotland being selected.
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.”
Officials say the £20m investment over ten years will take the form of an endowment-style fund to be spent on local people’s priorities like regenerating high streets and town centres or securing public safety.
A town centre board will bring together community leaders, employers, local authorities and the town’s local MP to deliver a long-term plan for each town to be put out for consultation in the community.
A range of ‘regeneration powers’ aim 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,” officials say.
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 £1 billion 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.”
Speaking in his weekly Kilmarnock Standard column, Alan Brown MP said: “Obviously, I will always support additional investment and want to see it form part of proper long-term planning.
“However, it is bizarre that there was no process, no discussions, no bid process but an announcement of “here are towns we have decided to give money to”.
“The politics are such that yet again, it is an attitude that ‘Westminster knows best’.
“Scotland still loses out overall in EU funding we would have received, and had Kilmarnock not been one of the seven Scottish towns chosen I would have raised about the lack of transparency, but at least it has worked in our favour for once!
“Another issue I have is that for long-term planning for the wider communities I would far rather our surrounding towns and villages had access to the funding, not just Kilmarnock, because Westminster says so. Still, time to get working and planning on making Kilmarnock better as a shopping and leisure centre.”
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