Will £605m funding promise to South Yorkshire be broken in Spending Review?

A Sheffield MP will be ‘looking closely’ at the Chancellor’s Spending Review to see if promises to match EU funding after Brexit - worth £605m to South Yorkshire - will be broken.

Monday, 23rd November 2020, 4:45 pm

Paul Blomfield said he had no idea what the terms of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund might be despite pressing ministers for two years.

But anything less than the same amount would expose the shallowness of ’levelling up’.

On Wednesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak will deliver a Spending Review with tens of billions of pounds of investment in infrastructure, a ‘refresh’ of Green Book investment guidance that favours the South East and details of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

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Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

A Treasury spokesman said the Fund would target ‘left-behind places and people in need, including towns, coastal communities and former industrial heartlands’.

And it would include £220 million next year for pilot programmes ‘well before investment from EU Structural Funds starts to tail off’.

Mr Blomfield is among scores of opposition MPs who have criticised a lack of detail or consultation on the fund.

It was announced by the government three years ago as a post-Brexit replacement for EU support to under-performing areas.

Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield. Picture: Chris Etchells

South Yorkshire was set to get £605m between 2021 and 2027. An earlier scheme, Objective One, received £820m from Europe and grew the economy by more than eight per cent, Mr Blomfield said.

He added: “I’ve been pressing ministers for almost two years to make a commitment to provide the £605million regional funding that we would have received if we had stayed in the EU.

“Time and again they have refused, so I will be looking closely at the Chancellor’s announcement. Anything less than a full commitment to match EU funding will break promises made in the referendum and expose the shallowness of their so-called ‘levelling up’ agenda.”

In September, Michael Gove, Minister for the Cabinet Office, caused dismay when he said the UK’s replacement for EU structural funding would go to communities that were “undervalued and overlooked” by Labour authorities and now had Conservative MPs.

Michael Gove in the Commons.

This week’s Spending Review is also expected to include a National Infrastructure Strategy setting out long-term ambitions to deliver on levelling up and Net Zero through investments in transport, digital infrastructure, housing, energy and going green.

The Treasury will also unveil new Green Book guidance to Whitehall that will link projects to government objectives – not just return on investment – and for the first time will require the the regional impact of policies to considered.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: “We are absolutely committed to levelling-up opportunities so those living in all corners of the UK get their fair share of our future prosperity.

“All nations and regions of the UK have benefited from our unprecedented £200 billion Covid support package. And after a difficult year for this country, this Spending Review will help us build back better by investing over £600 billion across the UK during the next five years.”

The Treasury will set up a Northern headquarters next year, he added. And the government was committed to relocating 22,000 civil service jobs out of London and the South East by 2030.

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