An £8.4 billion fund to replace EU regional aid after Brexit must be entrusted to local government, council leaders set out in a new report this week.
Since the EU referendum, the Local Government Association (LGA) has been lobbying for a government commitment to replace vital EU regeneration funding that will be lost when Britain leaves Europe.
In its manifesto, the Government pledged to create a UK Shared Prosperity Fund to replace the money local areas currently receive from the European Union, which has been vital to economic growth.
In his role as Chairman of the LGA’s Brexit Task and Finish Group, ECC’s Deputy Leader Cllr Kevin Bentley said: “Since the referendum, one of the biggest concerns for councils has been the future of vital EU regeneration funding. Councils have used EU funds to help new businesses start up, create thousands of new jobs, roll out broadband and build new roads and bridges.
“Securing a government commitment around this vital regeneration funding has been an important step. To further its devolution commitments, we want to work with the Government to help develop a fully-funded and locally-driven successor scheme with local government in areas of all types.
“Current EU funding is allocated over a seven-year period. This long-term distribution must be maintained to allow for long-term planning. Funding must be easier to access and local areas need full control over how it is spent and what projects it is spent on.
“With national funding for regeneration increasingly being depleted, all local areas have become increasingly reliant on EU money and local areas are desperate to get on with creating jobs, building infrastructure and boosting growth.”
The LGA says any UK successor fund needs to be of at least equivalent value to the current European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF). In its new report, ‘Beyond Brexit’, it says local areas across the UK had been set to receive a total of €10.5 billion (£8.4 billion) between 2014 and 2020.
Council leaders want to work with government to avoid creating a like-for-like replacement of the current EU programme, which is often bogged down in government bureaucracy and delay.
The LGA said Brexit provides an historic opportunity to give local areas greater say on were money should be spent to benefit local people and economies and best support infrastructure, environment, enterprise and social cohesion.