Brexit threatens to throw a spanner in Devon’s financial works – if the Government fails to come up with firm proposals for a scheme to replace EU funding, it has been revealed.
The county currently receives more than £150m a year in EU funding and Devon County Council is backing calls, led by the the Local Government Association (LGA), for the Government to urgently consult on its plans for a scheme to replace the funding after Brexit.
The Government made a commitment in July 2018 to consult on plans for the funding, but it has yet to do so.
The LGA, which represents councils across England and Wales, has today (September 24) said that ongoing uncertainty over the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), which is proposed to replace EU funding, is preventing local areas from securing vital investment into their local economies.
While the majority of Devon’s EU funding comes via the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), there is also a significant amount in EU funding to improve business competitiveness, growth and broadband.
Since 2014, with support from EU funding, Devon has been able to provide superfast broadband access to over 183,000 business and homes, released land for over 29,000 new homes and built business accommodation for up to 28,000 new jobs. It has also created more than 5,000 new training, apprenticeship and job opportunities, and supported 2,000 small businesses.
EU funding and the future
Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, said: “We are committed to promoting economic growth and we’ve achieved a lot with the EU funding we’ve received over the years.
“At the moment it’s impossible to plan for the longer term with any certainty, which is why we need to know more about future funding and how that can be invested. We don’t want to miss out on opportunities for funding for important infrastructure projects that will benefit our county.”
The LGA says that local council leaders should be given the opportunity to co-design UKSPF, ensuring any future growth funding is more accessible, based on local need and distributed over the longer-term. It also states Whitehall must not replace Brussels after Brexit with the need for powers to be devolved beyond government and to rest with local communities.
As part of this wider devolution agenda, the LGA is calling on the Government to put forward a new English Devolution Bill in the Queen’s Speech that would hand widespread powers and funding to local areas across the whole country.