United Kingdom

Starmer fails to help sports centre where he plays football

The Labour Party leader has been accused of failing to help save the sports centre where he plays football because it would have used cash from Boris Johnson’s Levelling Up Fund.

Sir Keir Starmer was condemned for ‘putting politics above people’ by not backing a bid to rescue the Talacre Sports Centre in his North London constituency.

Labour tried to defuse the row last night, claiming Sir Keir had not personally known about the application. 

Arsenal fan Sir Keir spoke of the ‘real buzz’ he felt to be back playing at the Talacre Sports Centre after Covid restrictions were eased

But embarrassingly for him, the £2.8 million project was known to London Labour mayor Sadiq Khan who gave it his backing.

Earlier this year, keen footballer and Arsenal fan Sir Keir spoke of the ‘real buzz’ he felt to be back playing at the Talacre Sports Centre after Covid restrictions were eased.

But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that his support is missing from his local council’s bid to revamp the centre with cash from the £4 billion Levelling Up Fund.

Despite its name, the fund is not restricted to areas in the North and Midlands but open to worthwhile schemes all over the country – including the Labour leader’s Holborn and St Pancras constituency.

Bid documents drawn up by Camden council made a pitch for the funds by pointing out the pandemic had ‘severely undermined’ the financial viability of the centre. They raised hopes that with the Government cash, the centre could break even within three years.

The Levelling Up Fund prospectus makes clear there is a role for local MPs to get involved in applications by stressing how it would ‘expect MPs, as democratically-elected representatives of the area, to back one bid that they see as a priority’.

But the submitted application, released under Freedom of Information rules, shows that Sir Keir’s backing was not forthcoming.

The £2.8 million project was known to London Labour mayor Sadiq Khan who gave it his backing

Last night, Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden said that he found it ‘unbelievable’ Sir Keir Starmer had ‘failed to back this bid from his own Labour council when approached’. He added: ‘This looks like a case of putting politics above people – in this case, his own young constituents.’

Labour sources blamed a mix-up for the row, denying that the party leader had not backed the funding bid for any ideological reasons.

They claimed the Talacre funding request ‘had fallen through the cracks’, with Sir Keir himself being unaware of the approach.

He would have supported it if he had known about it, they insisted.

But one Labour MP said last night: ‘A lot of us are already worried Keir and his team haven’t got a grip. This little mess just shows how much of a grip he has to get.’

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