Charity sector infrastructure bodies including ACEVO, Charity Finance Group, Children England, Locality, Local Trust, Lloyds Bank Foundation and NCVO have joined together to urge the UK Chancellor for clarity on the proposed replacement for EU funding post-Brexit, ahead of the UK’s Budget on 11 March.
EU Structural Funds make up over a quarter of the EU Budget and are intended to support economic development. The Funds consist of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) and they aim to rebalance regional social and economic disparities.
The Chancellor announced back in 2016 that government would continue to fund existing EU Structural Funds programmes scheduled to finish after Brexit, and that it had committed to a UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), which would serve a similar purpose to the existing European Structural and Investment Funds.
However, a consultation on UKSPF has been repeatedly delayed. In a letter to the Chancellor, which also includes a number of other key proposals, the group said that while they welcome the government’s commitment to match, at a minimum, the size of EU Structural Funds in each nation, charities are urgently awaiting more details of the UKSPF, including the time period over which £500m earmarked for disadvantaged people is spread, and the consultation on how the programme will be designed and delivered.
They also seek assurances that other smaller funds are also replaced to ensure disadvantaged people receive the support they need post-Brexit.
With the UKSPF scheduled to begin in April 2021, the letter urges that its consultation, which has been repeatedly delayed since 2017, becomes a “key priority for the government in order to help avoid gaps in funding and therefore the loss of vital support for communities across the country.”
The letter calls for the government to put communities and the charities that represent them at UKSPF’s centre, stating:
“Communities and charities that represent them must be at the heart of the UKSPF, including the delivery and design of the programme, with significant devolved funding and community control. A more localised approach would harness local assets, and provide investment for growing the capacity of communities and local organisations to lead change in their neighbourhoods. It would unlock opportunities for areas, which have often been overlooked, and for people facing barriers to and in the workplace. It would also enable community-led activity and community businesses to flourish.”
The full letter, along with the other proposals can be read on the Charity Finance Group’s website.