A cross-party group of MPs says it’s “simply unacceptable” that the UK Government has yet to provide details of its plan to replace EU funds with fewer than three months before the end of the Brexit transition period.
The Welsh Affairs Select Committee has published a report which states that “negligible progress” has been made in developing the Shared Prosperity Fund, causing uncertainty and worry for charities, businesses and organisations. Britain’s transition period ends on 31 December.
The UK Government says it will confirm details “well ahead” of April 2021 which is when the period ends which the current EU funding covers.
Wales has received nearly £2bn since 2014 from structural funds - a series of funding streams aimed at reducing inequality which are combined with money directly from Westminster. They’re administered in Wales but have to meet rules and priorities set by the EU.
The money has gone into schemes ranging from large road projects, like the Heads of the Valleys road, to grassroots community groups.
The UK Government first announced in 2017 that it would replace EU funding schemes with something to be called the Shared Prosperity Fund.
It was a commitment too in the Conservative manifesto for last December’s General Election which promised to “at a minimum match” the funding totals.
After carrying out an inquiry, the Welsh Affairs committee says there’s evidence that little progress has been made and notes that “repeated promises of a consultation have failed to materialise.”
Members of the committee, which is made up of Conservative, Labour and Plaid Cymru MPs, say that ministers should provide a firm date for when information will be available.
The committee's chair, Stephen Crabb, said that "more than three years after the UK Government announced its intention to replace EU funds with a Shared Prosperity Fund, there is still no clarity as to what this Fund will look like.
He added: "This is a simply unacceptable state of affairs. We are calling for the Government to bring forward their proposals and to provide urgent reassurance that there will be no funding cliff edge in January 2021."
The report also sets out a series of priorities for the SPF:
The amount of money available. Should be at least as much as current funding and based on the needs of Wales, not the Barnett formula
Funding streams should cover multiple years. Structural funds cover a 7-year period
The UK Government should reach agreement with the devolved governments that spending decisions are taken in partnership
Local councils should be fully involved.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “After more than 40 years in the EU, we have an opportunity to decide how and where to spend our money.
"The UK Shared Prosperity Fund will be better targeted than the EU Structural Funds and, as a minimum, will match the size of those funds in each nation and help to level up the entire UK. “Details of the programme are being developed and we will continue to work on it in collaboration with the devolved administration in Wales. We are conscious the EU funding will start to scale down in April 2021 and phased over the next three years, and details of the UKSPF will be published well ahead of this date.
“We thank the committee for the report and will respond to the recommendations in due course.”