Getting regional policy right: designing the Shared Prosperity Fund

22 November 2018 - by Gráinne Walsh

As a member state of the European Union, the UK can access £2.4 billion of EU Structural Funds.

These funds provide investment for social and economic development. The funds are not a replacement for local growth funding or local authority funding; they are a top-up to existing funding streams (under the principle of ‘additionality’), for places that need extra investment.

When the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, it will lose access to this money.

The 2017 Conservative manifesto committed to establish a domestic successor to the EU Structural Funds, using resources repatriated under the Brexit process. The replacement domestic fund is known as the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

To date there has been little detail on how this fund will be resourced or work in practice. Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) indicates that places that are doing poorly in both earnings levels and employment rates should be the focus for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

The current model of EU Structural Funds has successful elements that should be replicated by the UK successor funds, but one failing of the current EU model has been its inability to differentiate between challenges facing different places.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund should be place-sensitive, with locally-tailored responses to the unique challenges faced by different areas around the UK.

The strongest support for Leave in the 2016 Brexit campaign was registered in places outside of the metropolitan conurbations that have struggled to adjust to economic change in recent decades. Brexit presents the opportunity for the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund to tackle the frustration of those left behind by the widening economic disparity in the UK.

Currently, one fifth of the UK's population is living in poverty. In Northern Ireland, five councils, including Belfast, are on the list of the 40 most disadvantaged local authorities in the UK.

So, how can we use future funds to make real changes in people’s lives? What lessons can we learn from four decades of EU funding to ensure that any new money is spent effectively, making a real difference for individuals, communities and businesses?

Come to our event on Saturday 24th November in the Hemlock Room of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast, at 1:30pm, as part of the DUP's annual conference, for a panel discussion on how we can and should shape the future of a regional approach to inclusive growth in the UK. Campbell Robb, CEO of JRF, Nigel Dodds MP and Dr Theresa Donaldson will all participate.