Fresh row between Tory MP and council leaders over Newhaven funding

Newhaven High Street SUS-170911-084520008
Newhaven High Street SUS-170911-084520008

A fresh row has broken out on social media over possible Government investment in Newhaven between the town’s MP and council leaders.

Earlier this month Zoe Nicholson, Green leader of Lewes District Council and Lib Dem deputy leader James MacCleary accused Lewes MP Maria Caulfield of making ‘misleading’ comments about the status of the Seaford health hub project.

Challenged on her record on Newhaven Ms Caulfield said she had ‘secured £25 million’ for the town last week, telling a Twitter user to ‘get your facts straight’.

She was referring to the towns fund, with Newhaven one of 100 areas across the UK invited by the Government to bid for a share of the £.36billion funding pot.

Bids are being asked to focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture.

Ms Caulfield went on to say: “The town centre has regeneration plans but the new administration at the council are being frustratingly slow. The money is available they just need to get in with it.”

After May’s elections a cooperative alliance formed of Greens, Lib Dems, Labour and independents took control of the council from the Conservatives.

Cllr MacCleary asked: “Are you talking about the Towns Fund Maria Caulfield? I hope not as we’ve been shortlisted for that due to the hard work of council staff - nothing to do with you. As yet no funds have actually been ‘secured’ by anyone. It’s misleading to suggest otherwise.”

The Tory MP replied: “It’s £25 million available from a Conservative Government for Newhaven. I do hope the Lib Dem council doesn’t mess this up for the residents of Newhaven.”

Cllr MacCleary hit back: “We welcome the opportunity to bid, alongside 100 other areas, for a share of the fund. To say that we’ve been allocated a specific amount however is simply untrue.

“First, Seaford health hub, now this. Your relationship with the truth seems to be as flexible as your party leader’s.”

Ms Caulfield then replied: “The money is there. Pretty disappointing if Lib Dems don’t put in a bid for it. I will let the residents of Newhaven know. I secured £10 million for Lewes town last year would welcome an update with progress on what the Lib Dems are doing with that?”

Cllr Nicholson then weighed in, saying: “So let’s be clear the £25m is part of an overall pot that Lewes District Council has already bid for and was shortlisted way before PM Johnson or to my knowledge our MP got involved.

“We will of course be taking our existing bid on to the next stage for the people of Newhaven.”

But Ms Caulfield replied again, adding: “Wrong again Zoe, I supported this bid when it was put in and lobbied the Government for Newhaven to be shortlisted. Have a look at the application. Would it really be too much to welcome £25 million funding from the Conservatives for Newhaven?”

The Conservative Government’s Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick also commented on the situation.

He said: “To clarify - there was no bidding process for the towns fund so Lewes District Council did not bid - it was determined objectively by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

“But Maria Caulfield pressed the case for Newhaven to me and my predecessor. Look forward to working with her and Lewes District Council to make this a great success.”