Time running out to agree on post-Brexit funding

Scottish organisations still in the dark on what will replace almost €1b in EU Structural Funds

ESEC chair Councillor Will Dawson has written to Liz Truss MP, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in order to seek assurances in relation to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF), the financial framework which the UK Government has confirmed will replace EU Structural Funds. Structural Funds in Scotland are worth up to €941 million from 2014-20 for use in economic development. It has also been confirmed by the government that final decisions on the fund are due to be made at the Spending Review, which is expected this autumn.

In the letter, Cllr Dawson shared the concerns felt strongly among local authorities regarding the delay to the consultation on the SPF, which was expected by the end of 2018 but which never materialised. Even if the consultation was launched by the end of this month, and assuming it is open for twelve weeks, that would leave only a couple of months for the government to review the responses and draft a programme incorporating the expertise and recommendations contained in the submissions.

Furthermore, the letter stressed that any further delay could lead to a loss of skills and expertise, as current employees consider their future prospects. As the existing programmes come to a conclusion, including ERDF, ESF, EMFF and LEADER, staff working with these funds are in the dark as to what comes next. If the UK Government does not provide information on the successor programme, and soon, then there is the potential of losing a lot of very knowledgeable people who will seek opportunities elsewhere.

Commenting on the urgency of the situation and the need for the UK Government to act, Cllr Dawson said “No matter your views on Brexit, there can be no doubt that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund offers a genuine opportunity to deliver a programme which is free of the bureaucracy of its predecessor programmes and which has a simplified administrative structure, making it accessible to all, while addressing both need and opportunity. Therefore it is a matter of huge importance that the consultation process is thorough, and genuine, and incorporates the recommendations of those delivering EU-funded projects. We therefore urge the government launch the consultation as a matter of priority.”