Poorer regions demand answers on replacement funding plans

Council leaders from poorer parts of the country have called on the government to publish its consultation on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund without further delay.

The fund is intended to replace European Union structural funding in any post-Brexit scenario.

The leaders said details of the fund were long overdue and essential to creating an ambitious regional policy to close growing inequality gaps within the UK.

They said they represented ’less developed regions’ as defined by Eurostat’s measure of regional GDP. These were: South Yorkshire, Tees Valley and Durham, Lincolnshire, southern Scotland, outer London – east and northeast, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly and west Wales and the valleys.

Cornwall Council leader Adam Paynter (Lib Dem) said on behalf of the group: “The government needs to stop dragging its feet and deliver a fair UK Shared Prosperity Fund as an absolute priority.

“Regional inequality is increasing in the UK and the government urgently needs to deliver on its promise to rebalance the economy.”

He said the economy had become lop-sided with “economic activity increasingly concentrated in a few prosperous hubs and the rest of the country left to fend for itself”.

In their joint statement to communities secretary James Brokenshire, the leaders warned that their areas would lose €13bn of European investment after Brexit and said the fund should replace this.

They also called for the fund to be devolved where devolution deals were already in place and elsewhere designed to place decision making as close to citizens as possible.

“We will not accept any roll-back on devolution as we believe that the centralisation of UK economic policy and funding decisions is one of the main drivers of regional inequality,” they said.

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