LEP Board Director Pat Doody looks forward to the launch of the Shared Prosperity Fund.
Lincolnshire currently has a significant and active European funding programme which is being invested in skills provision, business support, innovation, low carbon and environmental measures.
Later this year we expect to hear more about exactly what the Government has in mind when it talks about its Shared Prosperity Fund. This new fund is designed to replace EU economic aid and was a key part of the Conservatives’ manifesto in May. It said: "We will use the structural fund money that comes back to the UK following Brexit to create a United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund, specifically designed to reduce inequalities between communities. The money that is spent will help deliver sustainable, inclusive growth based on our modern industrial strategy. The UK Shared Prosperity Fund will be cheap to administer, low in bureaucracy and targeted where it is needed most.”
On the face of it that’s good news for Greater Lincolnshire because we still have much to do in addressing areas of poor productivity and some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England. But we also have great strengths, and the job of the LEP, working with business and our local authorities, is to champion those strengths and make sure we harness them to grow our businesses, upskill our people and create high-quality jobs.
The Government has pledged to consult widely on the Shared Prosperity Fund and has asked LEPs to lead on regional responses. We expect a formal consultation later in the autumn and a launch of the fund in late 2018. Both the LEP and local authorities have been working for some time to prepare evidence to inform the Government’s thinking about the Shared Prosperity Fund, as it will replace the current EU programmes and potentially many of the other funding streams once the UK has left the EU. Although we await the details of how the new fund will operate, there are three key principles that we are promoting which we believe will deliver the biggest benefit to our economy while contributing significantly to the Government’s Industrial Strategy.
The first is to call for a single-pot investment programme that can achieve a holistic approach to economic development that is efficient and inclusive and has maximum impact. For too long we have been forced to bid into different silos of European funding. We want a single investment pot of capital and revenue funding.
Our second principle is that we have local decision-making. We know what works and what doesn’t and we want greater controls over funding, building on that local accountability and flexible delivery.
The third principle is about how we measure the impact of investment. Historically, measuring progress and performance has been based on outputs, rather than outcomes. An example is measuring how many hours of support a business might have received (outputs), rather than how that has actually benefited the business in terms of increased sales, better skills or improved productivity (outcomes). That’s really important in a rural area like ours, where delivery costs of funding programmes are significantly higher than in urban areas. Measuring everything on outputs distorts the value-for-money equation, so we need a better way that takes account of rurality.
All these issues have been raised with the Government when we have been discussing the opportunities and challenges of Brexit, and we will continue to highlight with ministers issues raised by the business community in relation to Brexit.
Pat Doody is a Board Director at the Greater Lincolnshire LEP and Chairman of the ESIF Committee for Greater Lincolnshire.