The East of Scotland European Consortium (ESEC) welcomes the report on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Post-Brexit funding for Nations, Regions and Local Areas.
In the period of 2014-20, Scotland will have received €476 million from the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) and €465 million from the European Social Fund (ESF). The UK government has proposed that the Shared Prosperity Fund replaces this investment, but as of yet there has been no further detail on the allocation, management, or delivery.
The APPG report is positive and recognises the expertise of local authorities in delivering EU-funded projects for the benefit or their communities. We would like to highlight the following recommendations from the report as being in line with our own position:
- The budget for the UKSPF needs to be no less, in real terms, than the EU funding it replaces. This would be £1.5 billion a year, but just for ESF and ERDF. To also cover the European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), the budget would need to be proportionally larger; in addition, the existing shares for the four nations of the UK should be rolled forward.
- The UKSPF should operate on the basis of multi-annual financial allocations to allow for the proper planning and implementation of projects; lengthy financial allocations of this kind do not fit neatly with UK Spending Reviews but in the context of regional and local economic development there is considerable merit in lengthier spending programmes.
- The UK Government should not earmark parts of the pot for specific areas within the devolved nations – the allocation of funding to local areas should be a devolved matter;
- There should be no role for competition between areas for funding as this is as a waste of time and resource for those delivering projects;
- Local partners should be given flexibility to define the types of projects on which the UKSPF is spent, as long as the activities remain consistent with the wider objectives of the Fund;
- EU funding can be very bureaucratic and there is a strong need to simplify administrative processes; government departments need to devolve more responsibility (and trust) to local players such as local authorities, especially where well-proven administrative structures are in place.
We look forward to responding to the UK government’s own consultation when it is launched later this year, and we hope some of these recommendations are reflected in the content.
To read the report and the individual submissions, including that of ESEC, please see here – https://www.postbrexitappg.org/