Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis has led calls in Parliament for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to drive economic growth and tackle the gap between the richest and poorest regions of the country.
The new Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace the European funding and Local Growth Funding that regions currently receive, could be worth at least £2.4 billion a year.
Leading the first national debate on the subject in Westminster Hall, Mayor Jarvis laid out his commitment to ensuring that the most disadvantaged and hard to reach communities do not suffer.
He said: “I am in a unique position as Mayor of the Sheffield City Region and also MP for Barnsley Central. I have seen first-hand what local areas can do when they come together to drive economic growth. But I’ve also seen how limited and constrained they are by the powers and resources available to them.
“Both European and Government funding often comes with limitations that inhibit creative thinking, making it virtually impossible to deliver the significant structural changes that we need.
“The UK Shared Prosperity Fund presents an opportunity to press the reset button and think about how we do things differently. This must be the start of our economic transformation, not the end.”
Mayor Jarvis made the case that tackling the productivity gap between regions could drive economic growth not just for those regions, but for the whole of the UK – as London and the South East, however successful, cannot do it alone.
In the North of England, Transport for the North’s Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review suggests that the North could add an additional £97bn to its economy, and 850,000 extra jobs by 2050. This is therefore the time, Mayor Jarvis argued, to commit to rebalancing the economic divide.
The debate comes at a crucial time as Ministers seeks to heal divisions across the country.
From 2020 the funding that is allocated to regions by the European Union will come to an end, and 2021 also marks the end of the Government’s Local Growth Fund, which has contributed to transformative developments across the UK.
Research shows that, if the UK were to remain in the European Union, UK regions would have received 13 billion Euros over the seven years between 2021 and 2027 – 22% more funding than the current funding programme, which runs until 2020.
Mayor Jarvis has laid out his four guiding principles on which he thinks the UK Shared Prosperity Fund should be based. These are:
- That the fund should be no less in real terms than both the EU and Local Growth Funding streams. There must be a guarantee by Government that regions will not be worse off in terms of funding beyond 2021 because of Brexit.
- There must be an open and transparent process in place that strikes a balance between areas of need and supporting those economies with the greatest potential to grow.
- The fund must be fully devolved to those areas who have in place robust governance models including Combined Authorities and Mayoralties. It must be up to local areas how best to invest it, be that be based on skills, infrastructure, employment support and education.
- And the funding must be stretched over multiple years, beyond the vagaries of Spending Reviews and Parliamentary cycles
He continued: “The UK Shared Prosperity Fund will be a litmus test for this Government on its commitment to devolution. Change is afoot and there is growing recognition that the answers to these issues do not lie in Westminster or Whitehall.
“There are nine Metro Mayors across England all calling for greater freedoms and resources to help us do our jobs. The central question now is, do we have the courage and conviction to let go of powers and resources, tackle the scourge of regional inequalities and create a country that works for all.”