Poorer regions could miss out on billions of pounds if post-Brexit regeneration funds are not managed properly, a group of charities has warned.
The Communities in Charge campaign, which has been backed by Locality, Co-operatives UK and the Plunkett Foundation, has warned that seven UK nations/regions are at risk of losing out on public funding when the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is introduced.
The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is due to replace various finance streams when Britain leaves the EU, although details remain patchy about how it 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 April, a cross-party group of MPs called on the government to publish more details about the fund, but so far nothing has appeared.
And last month, the Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry defended the government’s handling of the fund, insisting ministers have ‘not been sitting on our hands’.
An analysis by the campaign claims that if the government continues on its default setting for allocating money then London and the South East could be the biggest potential winners under the new system, with an extra £1.9bn and £1.2bn in public expenditure respectively between 2021 and 2027.
But it warns that Wales could miss out on over £2.3bn over six years, and the South West risks losing over £1bn in funding.
In order to prevent further regional inequality, the campaign has called for communities to be put directly in charge of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, with at least a quarter of the money going directly to local people.
‘The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a once in a generation chance to empower people all over the country so they can prosper on their own terms,’ said Locality chief executive, Tony Armstrong.
‘But there’s a real risk that chance will be missed. We are calling for all political parties, and candidates to be our next prime minister to urgently commit to a new settlement that puts communities in charge.
“Our analysis shows that if the money is distributed along the lines of recent equivalent UK programmes, it will be like handing every Londoner a cheque for over £200 and taking £700 from every Welsh person.
“That would be a historic disaster,’ added Mr Armstrong. ‘Instead, there is a fantastic opportunity to create a fund which could contribute towards bringing the country together. The fund should be made available to the people and places which need it most. And crucially, communities themselves should be in charge of it so they can be empowered to prosper after Brexit.’
In response, a government spokesman said: ‘We know the importance of local growth funding to local places and of providing certainty on its future. That’s why we are engaging with stakeholders on the design of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to ensure it can support those parts of our country whose economies are furthest behind.’
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