Boris Johnson: Addressing funding for Northampton town centre, resettling Afghan refugees and the Harry Dunn case

The Prime Minister paid a visit to The Chronicle & Echo office to answer questions about the town centre, the Afghanistan Citizen Resettlement Scheme and progress with getting justice for Harry Dunn

Friday, 7th January 2022, 9:29 am

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid a visit to Northampton today (January 6) to thank volunteers at a local vaccination centre and police officers for their efforts.

During his visit to the Moulton Park vaccination centre, he called out anti-vax campaigners for putting 'mumbo-jumbo' on social media and said they were 'completely wrong' in an interview with Sky News.He subsequently visited Weston Favell Police Station and then dropped by the Chronicle & Echo office along with Northampton North MP Michael Ellis and South Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom to address questions about funding for the town centre, the Afghanistan Citizen Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) and getting justice for Harry Dunn.

Northampton town centre has ear-marked funding from the Future High Streets Fund - is there likely to be any more support for our high street?

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Boris Johnson pays a visit to the Chronicle & Echo office during his visit to Northampton. Photo: Kirsty Edmonds

Boris Johnson said: "I think Northampton is doing brilliantly in many ways. I know the town centre has been successful in getting money from The Towns Fund.

"We will continue to make sure we support regeneration in the town centre in any way we can."

The now defunct Northampton Borough Council submitted a bid in 2019 to secure up to £12.5 million from the government's Future High Streets Fund, which shared £380 million across town and city centres in the UK

Northampton was given more than £8.4 million in 'round two' of the fund in 2020 to fund the renovation of the Market Square.

Boris Johnson said Northampton is 'doing brilliantly in many ways.' Photo: Kirsty Edmonds

The town additionally received £25 million from the Towns Fund grant in 2021, which will be spent on a range of projects, including the redevelopment of the old Marks and Spencer and BHS buildings, Four Waterside, a new arts centre on Guildhall Road and an extension of 78 Derngate.

Attractions in Northampton have additionally benefited from the Culture Recovery Fund - including Delapre Abbey, the Royal & Derngate Theatre and Picturedrome.

Traders and residents, however, have voiced concerns about how money should be going towards free parking and making rent more affordable for independent retailers to attract more business into the town centre.

Andrea Leadsom added: "Certainly in South Northants and across our county, businesses really welcomed the furloughing of staff and workers but also the support that was given to the hospitality sector was absolutely crucial, really enabled lots of them to survive."

The Afghanistan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS)

The Home Office today (January 6) announced that the UK formally opened the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) and the first Afghan family has been granted indefinite leave to remain under the scheme.

The scheme will provide up to 20,000 Afghan women, children, and others most at risk with a safe and legal route to resettle in the UK.

West Northamptonshire welcomed around 320 refugees to county hotels back in September 2021.

This newspaper asked the Prime Minister how the government plans to move refugees into permanent accommodation and what this will look like for Northamptonshire.

Boris Johnson said: "I think we undertake to resettle more here in this country - people to whom we owe debts of honour because of the help they gave us during this long period in which we were engaged in Afghanistan and it's totally right that we should do that.

"I think we also have to recognise the pressure it puts on our local authorities, pressures it puts on our accommodation and we have to fix it as fast as possible. We need to get those families into long term accommodation, we need to get them living here as normal with their families, earning and contributing to society and moving them on through.

"Vicky Atkins - the minister responsible is working flat out to ensure that happens because I know it's a great thing to be a country that brings people in and, you know, we have a long abd proud tradition of welcoming people who are fleeing terrible situations. Afghanistan is clearly a very difficult situation."

Harry Dunn

A woman, who was charged with death by dangerous driving after a teenager from Charlton died over two years ago, will face trial in an English court.

Anne Sacoolas, 42, who is now in America, was charged in December 2019 after the fatal collision, which killed 19-year-old Harry Dunn, happened on August 27, 2019.

Since the incident, Harry's family have been fighting for justice to get Sacoolas to face her charges after she claimed diplomatic immunity, which meant that she could not be prosecuted.

After a battle that stretched over two years, Sacoolas will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on January 18, 2022.

Boris Johnson wanted to make a statement with regards to getting justice for Harry. He said: "I do believe we are making some progress. All I can say is the UK government, the foreign secretary, the attorney general, everyone is working very hard to get justice for Harry Dunn and his family.

"I don't want to raise any false hopes or to anticipate developments but, you know, we have started to see some movements. We will continue to press very hard."