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Posted 28 July 2021

UK Shared Prosperity Fund – some detail at last – but not much!

RCN Blog

Aidan Campbell RCN Policy Officer blogs on the latest detail announced on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak finally revealed some detail on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) last week as part of his Spending Review announcement.

The UKSPF is the UK Government replacement for EU Structural Funds, including the Rural Development Programme, which I blogged about in January 2019 available here.

The UK Government has consistently promised that as it leaves the EU it will invest the same amount of money across the UK as was received through the EU Structural Funds.  This commitment was made in the Tory party manifesto for the 2017 general election but details have been long delayed as they were linked to the Spending Review announcement which was postponed several times.

The Spending Review last week finally did contain some details on the Fund:

“It will operate UK-wide, using the new financial assistance powers in the UK Internal Market Bill.

Total domestic UK-wide funding will at least match current EU receipts, on average reaching around of £1.5 billion a year (sic).

A portion of the UKSPF will target places most in need across the UK, such as ex-industrial areas, deprived towns and rural and coastal communities. It will support people and communities, opening up new opportunities and spurring regeneration and innovation.”

A Shared Prosperity Fund pilot scheme was announced with £220 million allocated in 2021-2022 to pilot new programmes and approaches.  It will operate UK-wide, using the new financial assistance powers in the UK Internal Market Bill.

Further details of the Fund will be announced in a UK-wide investment framework published in the spring.

Although the detail in the Spending Review is sparse the scope is broad and potentially the UKSPF has a lot of ground to cover.  The detail announced last week included references to; work-based training, support for early years, investment in cultural and sporting facilities, civic, green and rural infrastructure, community-owned assets, neighbourhood and housing improvements, town centre and transport improvements and digital connectivity.  The Fund will also provide support for local businesses including innovation support, green and tech adoption.

Specific NI projects and programmes of regional significance under the UKSPF announced include:

  • £618 million in 4 City and Growth Deals: £163 million in Mid/ South/ West of Northern Ireland, Causeway Coast and Glens; £105 million in Derry/Londonderry and Strabane; and £350 million in Belfast.[1]
  • £315 million to support farmers and land managers, and £3 million to support fisheries in Northern Ireland.
  • At least one Freeport in Northern Ireland, to be a hub for global trade and investment across the UK, promoting regeneration, job creation and innovation.

On a UK level there are questions on how the overall objectives will be decided and how far the devolved administrations will be able to shape the UKSPF Framework to meet the distinct needs of their regions.

From a rural community perspective our questions would be:

How will local communities be involved in shaping any NI programmes and projects that emerge?

How will UKSPF integrate with work the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has already done in developing a Rural Development Policy Framework for NI, which is likely to go to public consultation early 2021?

Will a ring-fenced pot of funding remain for rural development activity post Brexit?

[1] This would appear to be funding already announced see