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UK government accused of ‘levelling down’ Wales

UK government delays in delivering successor EU funds for Wales are leaving communities in the dark, risking job opportunities and undermining badly-needed projects, Welsh economy minister Vaughan Gething has warned.

Speaking in the Senedd, the economy minister said the UK-wide Community Renewal and Levelling Up funds, which are controlled by UK government ministers, are denying Wales the vital investment it needs to help create jobs and kick-start Wales’ economic recovery, amounting to a ‘levelling down’ for Wales.

Under the UK government’s plans, the pilot of the Shared Prosperity Fund, called the Community Renewal Fund, is worth £22om across the UK this financial year, with Wales expected to receive around £10m. That’s around £450,000 per local authority.

Had the UK remained in the EU, Wales would have received around £375m of new EU Structural funding each year for seven years from January 2021. This would be on top of funding from the current EU programmes.

Under the UK-wide £4.8bn Levelling Up Fund, a total of £800m has been set aside for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over four years, with Wales expected to receive around £30m this year. That’s around £1.3m per local authority in Wales.

The Welsh government say this confirms that there is no substance behind the Levelling Up brand.

Economy minister Vaughan Gething is urging the UK government not to break long-standing commitments by restoring this funding to Wales and reversing a needless power grab.

‘In no way can the UK government’s approach to post-Brexit funding be described as acceptable partnership working, let alone effective intergovernmental relations.

‘This is disappointing given the prime minister’s commitments following the summit in June regarding more effective intergovernmental relations across the UK and the first minister’s willingness to collaborate.

‘The clear majority position in this Senedd should be noted by UK ministers. Indeed, the people of Wales were offered a prospectus that endorsed the UK government’s plans at this year’s Senedd elections but that did not win the support of the Welsh public. There is a clear majority for a made in Wales approach that respects devolution.

‘Only six months remain of this financial year and the UK government has still not announced any successful bids for the Community Renewal and Levelling Up funds.

‘This is despite the promises made to announce bids in July. Partners are right to ask how projects are supposed to deliver by March as required. This is a delay that leaves communities in the dark and badly compromises what can be achieved for people and businesses in Wales.

‘We also have real concerns about the threat of UK Government plans on the future scale of EU-funded schemes including Business Wales, the Development Bank and Apprenticeships.

‘Our framework for investing replacement EU funds builds on years of partner engagement. It is based on evidence and agreement with clear priorities for Wales. This is what a Team Wales approach looks like.

‘I have made clear to the new secretary of state Michael Gove that we are open to meaningful discussions on how to best collaborate to make these funds a success for Wales.

‘The UK government has an opportunity to show it has listened and to end the era that says to Wales ‘You’ll get what you’re given’.’

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the UK Shared Prosperity Fund  will maximise the benefits of leaving the EU through quicker delivery of funding, better targeting and better alignment with domestic priorities.

‘Levelling up is about spreading opportunity, boosting living standards and improving public services in every corner of the UK.

‘The UK Shared Prosperity Fund will help to level up and create opportunity in places most in need, including in Wales. Funding will ramp up so that total domestic UK-wide funding will at least match EU receipts, reaching around £1.5bn a year.

‘We will publish further information on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund at the next Spending Review.’

Photo Credit – Welsh Government

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John Davis
John Davis
2 years ago

Wales voted to leave the EU, so it might be thought that the Welsh people don’t care.
They told us that we would keep our own Freedom of Movement rights (Johnson). They claimed that we could cut red tape if we left (Vote Leave). They promised no border down the Irish sea (Johnson, Gove), that we would remain in the Single Market (Hannan, Johnson, Leadsom) and have an even better deal (Vote Leave), that there was no threat to the student Erasmus scheme (Johnson), that shopping bills would be cut (Paterson, Rees-Mogg) and there would be no shortages (Gove, Farage, Raab). They promised 350 million pounds a week to the NHS (Vote Leave), with no downside to Brexit (Davis), and that there would be no big bill but a windfall (Braverman). They said we should ignore the pessimists and the merchants of doom (Johnson) and that the country would prosper mightily (Johnson) and that we would be thriving in 2021 (Hannan). 

They lied. They knew they would lose if they told the truth, that the cost would be enormous, so they lied to win the vote. For Cummings it was a game. For Johnson it was for self-promotion. For others it was for political or career reasons or from an irrational hatred of the EU. They relied on the public lack of understanding of the benefits of membership and the actual democratic processes of the EU, and in doing so they have given away our rights as Europeans, damaged our economy and threatened the cohesion of our union.

So how are you doing, five years on, what with all that prospering and thriving? Still think it was worth leaving the EU for all these unachieved advantages? Or are you feeling justifiably mislead? Could it be that the public were manipulated by a group of self-serving Tory egotists, nationalists, ideologues, fantasists and career opportunists, backed by a right-wing press pushing their own agenda, with the consequence of ruin to the country and the future of millions of families? 

Now they want to blame everything on the virus. Not because it’s legitimate, but because it provides useful cover amid the public confusion they themselves have created. Good for a while, good for papering over the cracks while the foundations collapse. The virus will be gone soon but Brexit damage will be with us forever.

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