Councils’ replacement EU funding ‘should go to metro mayors’

8 Oct 18

Post-Brexit funding for councils promised by the government must be fully funded and devolved to avoid a “damaging” funding gap, northern metro mayors have said.

The UK shared prosperity fund - outlined as a replacement for EU funding to local communities after Brexit - must be controlled by the English regions and not Whitehall, a group of metro mayors has said.

In a joint statement, northern mayors Andy Burnham (Greater Manchester) Steve Rotherham (Liverpool City region) Dan Jarvis (Sheffield City region) and Ben Houchen (Tees Valley) called for “substantial devolution of power and resources out of Westminster to the English regions”.

They added: “Ministers have promised a consultation on the shared prosperity fund this year and this is becoming urgent if we are not to be left with a damaging gap between the ending of EU structural funds and the setting up of the SPF - a gap which would lead to the closure of vital economic programmes and investments.”

In its 2017 manifesto, the Conservative party promised to deliver the SPF with money repatriated from the EU to support towns and cities worth £2.4bn a year.

Rotherham said: “The seeds of Brexit were sown as much in Westminster and Whitehall, as they were in Strasbourg and Brussels.

“It is vital therefore that the SPF is not held in Whitehall, but devolved to metro mayors so that we can drive investment to create good quality local jobs and help grow local businesses.”

EU structural funds have provided targeted support to economically disadvantaged regions including Tees Valley, Cumbria, Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

The annual contribution from the EU to the UK includes £793m to England, £275m for Wales, £102m for Scotland and £59m for Northern Ireland.

Houchen said: “What I don’t want is another Whitehall power grab.

“Post Brexit, we need to ensure that EU funding comes directly back to metro mayors so we can direct investment most effectively to meet the needs of local people and local businesses.”

In July of this year a written ministerial statement said the government would consult on the design of the new fund “later this year” with details being set out in the spending review.

Claire Ainsley, executive director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity, warned that the SPF must be set up urgently.

She said: “Families cannot afford to wait until the spending review, as many see their prospects deteriorating in towns and cities where jobs and wages for the worst-off are falling further behind the rest of the country.”

The JRF recommended that the government should at least match the £2.4bn a year that currently comes from EU structural funds and that these funds are allocated on the basis of need.

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: “We are continuing to engage mayors and mayoral combined authorities to ensure certainty of funding, ahead of a public consultation later this year.

“Decisions on the operation and allocation of the UKSPF will be made following the consultation.”

In July, a group of MPs warned that the UK needs a clear post Brexit devolution policy.

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