Local government leaders have welcomed the Brexit White Paper’s acknowledgement of how important EU regional funding is to local areas, but they urge Whitehall to provide more detail.
The Government has published its blueprint for what it hopes will be the future relationship between the UK and the European Union. It calls for trade cooperation, no hard border in Northern Ireland, and global trade deals for the UK.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has welcomed an acknowledgement in the White Paper of the importance of replacing the £8.4bn of European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) with the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).
‘Brexit cannot leave local areas facing huge financial uncertainty as a result of lost regional aid funding,’ said Cllr Kevin Bentley, chairman of the LGA’s Brexit taskforce.
‘This funding has been used by local areas to create jobs, support small and medium enterprises, deliver skills training, and invest in critical transport and digital infrastructure and boost inclusive growth across the country.’
However, Cllr Bentley added that Whitehall needs to flesh out this acknowledgement with the details of the UKSPF.
‘To help ensure we have an economy fit for the future, we are urging the Government to act immediately to consult on the detail of what the fund will look like,’ he said.
‘Councils need to know quickly how they will be able to bid, receive guarantees that the UKSPF will at least match the funding from the current European Structural Fund and receive their funding allocations by the time we leave the EU.
‘Without action there is a risk that billions of pounds of investment into our communities will be lost and local areas and economies will be denied desperately-needed funding.’
Cllr Bentley also underlined the crucial role EU nationals play in the UK’s public services, noting that 7% of social care workers are non-UK EU nationals.
‘The LGA is keen to work with the Government to ensure that these vital public servants can continue doing this vital work caring for the elderly and most vulnerable in our society,’ he said.