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MPs warn of UK Shared Prosperity Fund ‘power grab’

A cross-party group of MPs has warned the planned UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UK SPF) could be merged with other official funding streams as part of a Westminster ‘power grab’.

A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Post-Brexit Funding for Nationals, Regions and Local Areas has claimed the government is considering merging the Local Growth Fund with the UK SPF, which is due to replace EU regeneration and structural grants when the UK leaves the EU.

The UK SPF was first announced as part of the Conservative Party general election manifesto in 2017, which promised it would be ‘cheap to administer, low in bureaucracy and targeted where it is needed most’.

But details remain patchy about how the UK SPF will actually work.

A full consultation on the new fund was due to be held by ministers before the end of 2018, but has still yet to occur.

In July, one government minister, Jake Berry said the final decision on the composition of the fund will be made after the Spending Review, which has now been delayed until next year.

Now the APPG group has warned that the total cost of the UK SPF could reach £4 billion per year if the government goes ahead and merges it with the Local Growth Fund.

‘The EU structural funding has been a lifeline for the least developed parts of the UK, not least in Aberavon where the EU’s £264m funding per year for West Wales and the Valleys has helped fund important projects such as the Croeserw community enterprise centre, the Swansea Bay Campus, and the renovation of Port Talbot Parkway station,’ said APPG chair and Labour MP, Stephen Kinnock.

‘The UK SPF is set to replace EU funding, but the government has failed to give any commitments on the level of funding or how the fund will be managed. Now we’re told we must wait until 2020.

‘The uncertainty has increased concerns that the UK SPF will be used as a political ‘slush fund’ where politicians play pork barrel politics rather than ensure the funds reach the communities who need it most,’ added Mr Kinnock.

‘Now we’re hearing that the government might roll in the Local Growth Fund with the UK SPF, meaning that the fund may need to comprise £4bn per year if the government is to avoid short-changing the British public and falling behind our European neighbours.

‘We urge the government to reconsider whether merging an England-only fund with a UK-wide fund is logical, and to recognise that rolling the two funds into one would inevitably create confusion and raise serious doubts about transparency and double-counting.’

In April, a cross-party group of MPs called on the government to publish more details about the fund, but so far nothing has appeared.

But in May, Mr Berry defended the government’s handling of the situation, insisting ministers have ‘not been sitting on our hands’.

‘Our towns have seen the gradual decline of their voice in Whitehall which is why the APPG is so concerned that their SPF proposals could further erode the agency and empowerment that is so essential if our communities are ever going to take back control,’ added vice-chair, Jo Platt.

‘The new government, led by the figurehead of the campaign to leave the EU, now has a responsibility to deliver their referendum promises and match or exceed the levels of funding and investment our communities would have received were we to remain in the EU.’

Photo Credit – Derwiki (Pixabay)

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