Town of Year contest goes Pete Tong after kicking off in... a city

Town of Year contest goes Pete Tong after kicking off in... a city

There’s been a lot of talk about towns recently.

This is partly thanks to Lisa Nandy, the Wigan MP who’s launched a leadership campaign and has become famous for her impassioned defence of the humble town.

So much so that there’s an entire swathe of Nandy-inspired town memes, and a Twitter account called Lisa Nandy Memes for Town Loving Teens.

Plus, much of the post-election analysis has focused on the lost “Labour heartlands”, many of which comprise of – you guessed it! – small towns.

So you’d think the heightened attention might make the government organisers of Town of the Year, a competition dedicated to… towns, more careful of any potential pitfalls.

Nope! They launched it in Wolverhampton which is a great big city, and has been since the year 2000. That's almost two decades of city status.

The contest is opening later this year, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick is embarking on a trek around British towns to launch the initiative.

But a government press release said he was “kicking off his countrywide town tour in Wolverhampton”.

A spokesperson also later said Jenrick had toured Wolverhampton’s “town centre”.

This is all obviously quite embarrassing. What makes it more confusing is that Jenrick himself is from Wolverhampton and last year described it as a “city,” in an interview.

In an interview with Sky News this morning about the gaffe, he again confirmed that he knew Wolverhampton was a city – but also added that the towns fund was open to small cities as well.

So why is it called the ‘town’ fund?

Although there is set criteria that defines when a UK town can become a city (minimum population of 300,000; record of ‘good’ local government and “local metropolitan character”), that’s still sometimes not enough for a place to level up.

Wolverhampton, for example, got its city status as one of three new 'Millennium' cities, but had been lobbying for it since 1953.

Compare that to Croydon, which has a population bigger than Leicester or Coventry and has been applying to be recognised as a city since 1951 – but keeps getting denied.

At least it can apply for Town of the Year. Oh wait... so can cities.

The Conversation (0)