New UK economic aid plan to give Wales £600m over three years Published 14 minutes ago

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UK ministers say they will “slash bureaucracy and give control to locally elected leaders” in Wales in deciding how to spend nearly £600m over the next three years.

Ministers have announced details of a new Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) to replace EU aid Wales used to receive.

The EU fund averaged £375m a year.

In an angry response the Welsh government, which administered the EU scheme, said too little will reach needy communities.

It accused UK ministers of moving funding away from “our most disadvantaged communities”, and leaving Wales with less say over the cash.

Labour Welsh ministers say that with the SPF scheme Wales will be the equivalent of almost £1bn worse off by 2025, compared to EU funds.

It follows discussions between the two sides on how the scheme should work.

The UK government says it has met its manifesto commitment to match the previous EU funding by topping up residual funding from the old scheme until it fully replaces it in 2025.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said the new scheme is a “huge boost” for people across Wales “who will now have access to this fund to level up their communities and make decisions about where they want to see the money spent”.

UK ministers say the new scheme will be more flexible than its predecessor, helping “places right across Wales tackle local problems and seize new opportunities”.

EU funds sign

Local authorities will be encouraged to work together on regional committees to decide how the money will be used.

The UK government says communities will be asked to draw up plans this year.

Charities and other third sector organisations are expected to have to apply to their local authorities for funding for projects.

It is not yet clear whether the Welsh or UK governments will have direct input into the spending decisions.

The announcement said: “Instead of regional agencies, funding decisions will be made by elected leaders in local government, with input from local members of parliament and local businesses and voluntary groups.”

Under the EU aid system, the Welsh government administered the cash in agreement with the European Commission.

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The Levelling Up Secretary, Conservative MP Michael Gove, said: “We have taken back control of our money from the EU and we are empowering those who know their communities in Wales best to deliver on their priorities.”

Unlike the EU funding which was restricted to West Wales and the Valleys, the new Shared Prosperity Fund will cover all of Wales and will be allocated based on a formula of regional need.

‘Less say, over less money’

In response a Welsh government spokesman said that the post-EU funds leave Wales “with less say, over less money”.

“It remains the case that Wales will lose more than £1bn that could have been used to grow the economy and support some of our most disadvantaged communities.”

“In recent weeks, we have engaged in intensive talks with the UK government to try and secure a pragmatic way forward. Although there has been some movement, the funding plans set out today simply do not reflect the needs of Welsh communities.

“We are concerned that far too little will reach those communities most in need.”

The spokesman said ministers suggested an alternative formula “which would distribute funding more fairly across Wales according to economic need”, but said this was rejected.

“The result of this is that funding has been moved away from our most disadvantaged communities.”

However, the Welsh government added that it will work with councils and others to “maximise the opportunities that exist for programmes that will support our mission to create a stronger, fairer and greener Wales”.

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