Post-Brexit regional funding: ‘We’ve not been sitting on our hands’

17 May 19

A consultation on EU replacement funding will begin “very shortly”, a minister has claimed.

Jake Berry, minister for the Northern Powerhouse and local growth, defended the government’s work on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and said a consultation on it would begin soon.

The fund, promised in the 2017 Conservative manifesto, will seek to replace the £1.3bn that the UK receives from the EU each year through the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund.

Challenged by opposition MPs in the House of Commons about the consultation – which was supposed to begin before the end of last year – Berry claimed “we have not been sitting on our hands”.

The minister explained that the government has already engaged with more than 500 stakeholders. He also noted that the government has had 25 “official-level” engagements across the country and with counterparts in the devolved nations.

He said that the quantum for the UKSPF will be determined in the Spending Review, and as such the consultation “must happen” before then.

Asked specifically when the consultation would begin, he said: “The consultation will start very shortly.”

The minister added: “The impetus for the investment of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund should come from our regions rather than being directed out of Whitehall.”

Berry suggested that he will be working with metro mayors, local enterprise partnerships and local authorities across England to move forward an argument for control of the funds going to the regions.

The current tranche of EU funding runs out in 2020, at which point the UK will be responsible for replacing the funds.

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on post-Brexit funding,  told PF that the delays to the fund were causing “tremendous anxiety” for councils.

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