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Minister defends UK Shared Prosperity Fund

A minister has defended the proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund and insisted the government has ‘not been sitting on our hands’.

Speaking in a Westminster debate earlier this week, local government minister Jake Berry confirmed the government plans to bring forward its consultation on the fund, which is due to replace various EU regeneration grants when Britain leaves the EU before the next comprehensive spending review.

In March, the chancellor Philip Hammond announced the government will hold a spending review, which will finish alongside the next Budget, which will set Whitehall budgets if an EU exit deal is agreed.

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.

Last month, a cross-party group of MPs called on the government to publish more details about the fund, but nothing was forthcoming.

‘We have not been sitting on our hands, as people who have listened to the debate may think,’ commented Mr Berry during the debate.

‘We have already engaged with more than 500 stakeholders. We have had 25 official-level engagements across the country, including with our counterparts in the devolved administrations.

‘In addition, in my role as minister for the northern powerhouse, I have engaged with mayors. I have talked to them specifically about how we can work together to provide evidence to the consultation that demonstrates that, as so many people have said, the impetus for investment of the UK shared prosperity fund should come from our regions rather than being directed out of Whitehall.’

But Labour MP Dan Jarvis responded that there are still ‘unanswered questions’ about how the fund will work.

‘There is an urgent requirement for clarity about the design of the fund—how it will work and how it will be administered,’ he told MPs.

‘There is also a need to guarantee that, at the very least, our communities will not be worse off. That is the right thing to do, not least because, at this very difficult time for our country, if we want it to be both successful and united, we need to ensure that we get rid of the systemic inequalities between our regions and our nations.

‘If we are serious about doing that, the Shared Prosperity Fund will have a very important role to play. Let us get on with it and work out how we are going to do it.’

Photo by derwiki (Pixabay)

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart

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