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MPs demand answers over UK Shared Prosperity Fund

The government has come under fresh fire over its plans to replace EU regeneration grants with the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Speaking during a parliamentary debate last week, the SNP’s Drew Henry criticised the lack of progress being made by ministers over the new fund, which was first promised in the 2017 Conservative Party general election manifesto.

Details remain patchy about how the fund will actually work.

A full consultation on the new fund was due to be held by ministers before the end of 2018, but it has still yet to occur.

Last month, a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Post-Brexit Funding for Nationals, Regions and Local Areas has claimed the government is considering merging it with the Local Growth Fund.

‘Communities and charities have now been waiting for years to find out what funding will be available post Brexit, yet so far there is nothing from the UK government other than a name, that the Union flag will be on it and that it will be administered by the minister for local government in England,” said Mr Henry.

He also quoted the Conservative manifesto, which said the new fund would ‘reduce inequalities’.

‘They said it would be “cheap to administer” and “low in bureaucracy”. Without a like-for-like replacement, inequalities will increase, and that is what we are now looking at,’ he added.

‘The Tories were right in the second part of what they said: the fund is cheap and there is no bureaucracy—because it does not exist.’

Labour’s Stephen Kinnock also claimed that the government have done ‘absolutely nothing to make progress on the shape of that new fund’.

‘The UK government must not prevent local areas from having appropriate control over the funds,’ said Mr Kinnock.

‘Secondly, this is not just about the money,’ he added. ‘There is a real fear that it will not only be a financial grab but a power grab, and that the Westminster government will use this opportunity to reduce funding for the areas that need it most, and to claw back powers that sit naturally with devolved administrations and other local areas.

‘A recent worrying development is that the Government are considering rolling the Local Growth Fund for England in with the UK shared prosperity fund,’ added Mr Kinnock.

‘We know this only by rumour and leaks than by any clear or transparent statement, which is of course the modus operandi for this government.’

Representing the government, Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry said the ‘form of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will become clear at the comprehensive spending review’.

‘Many of the members who have contributed referred to our being the recipients of EU money, and I think it is really important that the point is made for people who may be watching our proceedings today at home and following our every word about the future of EU structural funding and the UK shared prosperity fund that this is not the EU’s money,’ added Mr Berry.

‘This money belongs to the British taxpayer; it is taken into the EU and is sliced, diced and taken away. It is then returned to the British people wherever they may be in our United Kingdom with a whole load of strings attached.’

Photo Credit – Stux (Pixabay)

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart

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