A COUNCILLOR has accused the Tories of running a “cynical election ploy” by targeting marginal election seats with a multi billion-pound fund.

The £3.6 billion Towns Fund was announced by the Government in September with the aim of funding 100 deprived towns across the country.

Newhaven, Crawley and Hastings were three of those that will receive extra funds – all three of which lie in marginal constituencies last won by Conservatives.

Lewes District Council deputy leader James MacCleary branded the fund a “cynical election ploy” to win votes in hotly contested seats.

And he said Lewes MP Maria Caulfield had used the fund as a campaigning tactic in Newhaven.

On October 26 Ms Caulfield paid for a Facebook advert targeting Newhaven residents. It claimed the town “has been awarded £25 million for the town centre” by the Towns Fund.

But no funding has yet been awarded and the only figure promised to Newhaven is any amount up to £25 million.

Then on November 4, two days before Parliament dissolved, the then-MP sent a letter to constituents advertising the Towns Fund and encouraging them to contact a Government-run Facebook page called MyTown to give ideas on how the money should be spent..

But the social media giant pulled a number of adverts bought by the MyTown page because the account had not labelled them as political.

Lewes District Council deputy leader James MacCleary branded the Towns Fund “cynical” and said Newhaven was being used as a “political football”.

“The Tories know our constituency is on a knife edge between them and the Lib Dems and are desperate to disguise their record of failure,” Lib Dem Cllr MacCleary said.

“I am disgusted that our town is being used in this way by the Tories as a political football.

“They can try as hard as they like to muddy the waters with social media adverts or letters through doors.

"But local people know what the Tories and Maria Caulfield have done for Newhaven and it’s less than nothing.”

Cllr MacCleary believed Newhaven would not receive any money from the Towns Fund for months. “The process is very drawn out,” he said. “First you have to draw up a ‘town deal’ with the local MP and other figures. Then you have to propose it to the Government and there’s a lot of negotiation after that.

“Then we could receive anything between £25 million and nothing.

“I find it outrageous that we are expected to be grateful to the Tories for announcing that there may possibly be an undefined amount of money at some future point.

“Even worse is that they have used taxpayers’ money to promote this on social media.

“The fact that Facebook had to take these adverts down as they felt they were inappropriate would be humiliating to any other government.”

Ms Caulfield was contacted for comment but did not respond.

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said the 100 towns were chosen by the same criteria.

“The Liberal Democrats should be getting behind local communities and welcoming the Conservative Party’s support for our towns, many of which have been neglected for far too long,” he said.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “All 100 towns were chosen according to the same selection methodology.”