Business leaders in Leeds within the LEP are calling for the post-Brexit funding for local economic growth to exceed existing domestic and EU funding allocations for the Leeds City Region, and put more control of funding decisions in local hands.
The Government has announced the creation of a new UK Shared Prosperity Funding after Brexit, using funding repatriated from the EU. The LEP is making the case that this should be made available to local areas as a single funding pot to remove unnecessary complexities and eligibility rules in the current model and ensure investment is properly targeted to meet local needs.
The Leeds City Region currently receives £350m ESIF over six years to promote economic growth, social inclusion and rural development. The region also receives over £100 million in Growth Funding annually.
Projects which have been allocated ESIF funding in Leeds City Region since 2014 are forecast to create over 8,000 jobs and support over 10,000 SMEs by 2020.
In addition, 1,000 businesses will be protected from flooding and 70,000 people across the Leeds City Region will be helped through funding allocated through the European Social Fund to 2020. Nearly 48,000 of those will be supported to be able to enter employment and over 23,000 people in employment will be supported to progress in the workplace.
Speaking at a recent event highlighting the opportunities to bid for the remaining ESIF funding before the UK leaves the EU, Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and of the City Region’s ESIF Local Sub-Committee, highlighted the need for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to continue supporting economic growth and social inclusion on this scale.
City Region LEP Chairman Roger Marsh said: “It’s fantastic to see the positive impact of ESIF funding in Leeds City Region on our economy and, most importantly, on people’s lives. With Brexit only a few months away though, we need some encouraging signals from Government about the direction of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and assurances that Leeds City Region will be allocated funding which supports our continued prosperity and economic growth.
“Local small and medium sized enterprises make up 99% of the City Region’s business base and it is critical we give the business community as much time as possible to plan, especially in light of uncertainties around the UK Brexit deal.
“Through our ESIF allocation and our £1billion Growth Deal, we’ve shown what we can achieve and it’s critical that we maintain this momentum after Brexit and beyond. Any financial loss if funding is stopped, paused or of less value, could have a significant impact on businesses, employment and skills.
“The Government’s commitment to a replacement fund for ESIF is welcomed by the LEP, and we want to work with Government to make sure this important new funding stream realises the greatest possible benefits. Most importantly we are seeking to ensure the essential funding the region will receive through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund exceeds our existing combined ESIF and Growth Deal investment. The Government has a real opportunity to reduce bureaucracy associated with previous funds by devolving funding on a local basis. We would welcome the chance to work with the Government to make this a reality.”
The City Region’s ESIF allocation is split into three funding components: the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).