Council Leader, Tudor Evans, has called for the government to put in place a clear statement for how schemes funded under various European Union structural programmes will be delivered under the proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UK SPF) post- Brexit. The EU structural funds seek to address inequalities and economic disparities between different regions of the EU.
Councillor Evans said: “We are rapidly heading towards 29 March 2019 with the government promising to continue funding currently provided from the EU across a wide range of issues and sectors. We need to see the detail to be assured that the South West and Plymouth is not going to lose out.”
The Heart of the South West area has been allocated £122 million in EU structural and investment funds from 2014 to 2020. Plymouth currently benefits directly to the tune of £10 million from this funding. Initiatives deliver business support and growth, develop social enterprises as well as provide support for new business start-ups and exporters, such as the Start Up and Grow fund. Another initiative enables businesses to work with the University of Plymouth’s electron microscopy centre.
The city’s residents also benefit from the skills development and training opportunities through EU funding.
Councillor Evans continued: “We are clear that Government must continue funding to help address the inequalities in the economy post-Brexit. We believe that there is also an opportunity to improve the system by removing red tape in the eligibility criteria. We also feel they could streamline and simplify the various funding streams. Ironically, a number of these ‘red-tapes’ were put in by our Government, not the EU.
“However, there is a danger of introducing a one size fits all approach across England. We strongly feel that the distribution of funding needs to be based on clear economic need using agreed statistical measures such as deprivation and productivity. We strongly oppose any sort of competitive bidding process post-Brexit. This is critical to ensure that Plymouth gets its fair share of funding rather than lose out to the overheating South East economy or to the Northern Powerhouse or Midlands Engine.
“We are calling on Government not to centralise future funding post-Brexit. We advise they build on the successful Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) so that funding for Plymouth and its travel to work area would be held by the Heart of the South West and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEPs.
“We do believe though, that there does need to be a quality threshold for schemes put forward under the UK SPF. We are clear that LEPs need to be held to account in the delivery of schemes and if there are any underspends in any area that the funding is returned to the central pot. This would then allow areas to make additional bids.
The Council has made a detailed submission to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on post-Brexit funding for nations regions and local areas.