MPs criticise lack of information on the Shared Prosperity Fund

Members from across the Commons urge the government to publish details of the fund, which will replace EU funding for communities and charities at the end of 2020

MPs have raised concerns about the lack of information on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is due to replace EU funding for communities and charities at the end of next year.

In a debate in the House of Commons yesterday, Drew Hendry, the Scottish National Party MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, set down a motion calling on the government to publish the full details of the UKSPF "with urgency" and to ensure that existing levels of funding were maintained.

Approximately £2.4bn is currently allocated to the UK through EU structural funds, of which about £500m goes to the charity sector.

The funds are due to be replaced by the UKSPF at the end of 2020, but a promised consultation and details on how the new fund might look are months overdue, which has concerned many in the charity sector.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations is among the umbrella bodies that have written to the government asking for equivalent funding after Brexit.

"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," Hendry told parliament.

"In mid-November last year we were promised that a consultation on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund would be published before the end of that year, but there is still nothing. All the while, the hard-working volunteers, charities and communities face rising concerns about the future of the people they selflessly serve, and about their own futures."

Stephen Kinnock, the Labour MP for Aberavon and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Post-Brexit Funding for Nations, Regions and Local Areas, said organisations across the country needed to plan 2021 budgets, but the lack of progress on the shape of the UKSPF was preventing this.

He also raised concerns that EU funding would be rolled into the local growth fund for England, which could result in less money overall being distributed under the UKSPF.

"As it stands, our recent report shows that the UK government must find £1.8bn per year to replace EU funding for the UK’s poorest regions, but that figure will reach £4bn a year if the two funds are merged," Kinnock said.

"The possibility of combining existing UK-managed funds with the UKSPF has led to fears of double-counting."

Hywel Williams, the Plaid Cymru MP for Arfon, said many MPs were "frustrated by the lack of information – any information at all, for that matter – about how the shared prosperity fund will operate".

He said: "The delay in the consultation is just symptomatic of the lack of care that the government has shown towards the European funding that we have already had and towards what will happen in future."

Scott Mann, the Conservative MP for North Cornwall, was also among the MPs to highlight the slow progress in introducing the UKSPF.

Peter Dowd, the Labour MP for Bootle, said the government was six months behind schedule on the UKSPF.

"The indecision of the government in so many policy areas is damaging the country and its indecision on this particular fund follows that pattern," he said.

"Ministers need to get a grip of this sooner rather than later."

In his response to the points raised in the debate, Jake Berry, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, said discussions approving new spending in the current period of European funding would enable funding commitments to be made until 2021 and would apply to commitments that were paid out between now and 2023.

But he failed to guarantee that funding levels would remain at existing levels, and said that "clarity about the quantum and the form of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will become clear at the comprehensive spending review", due to take place next year.

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