Central to the UK Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) is expected to support places across the UK, providing new funding for local investment by March 2025. It is intended to help local areas deliver enhanced outcomes and recognises that even the most affluent parts of the UK contain pockets of deprivation and need support.
The Fund’s interventions will be planned and delivered by ‘lead local authorities’, namely councils and mayoral authorities across England, Scotland and Wales, working closely with local partners, and the Scottish and Welsh Governments. In Northern Ireland, the UK Government will have oversight of the Fund, working with local partners to design a Northern Ireland investment plan.
The Fund’s investment priorities are:
- Community and Place
- Supporting Local Business
- People and Skills
Within the context of the Fund’s aims, each place will have flexibility to invest across a range of activities that represent the right solutions to improve local pride in place, increase life chances, to help spread and create opportunity, and a sense of community and belonging. The balance of priorities should reflect local need and opportunity.
The Fund will see places draw up plans to deliver on their local priorities, based on a conditional allocation of funding over the next three years. This could include regenerating rundown high streets, fighting anti-social behaviour and crime, or helping more people into work.
Funding for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will be £2.6 billion between 2022 and 2025, with this figure reaching £1.5 billion per year by March 2025.
The Government says the Fund will match the previous EU funding from the European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund. However, it is expected to be more flexible and locally-led. Local areas across England will be awarded £1.58 billion, Scotland £212 million, Wales £585 million and Northern Ireland £127 million.
In order to access UKSPF funding, lead local authorities are being asked to complete an investment plan, setting out how they intend to use and deliver the funding. Lead authorities will be asked to develop their investment plan in conjunction with local stakeholders. Places should establish or designate a local partnership group to consult when developing their investment plan. Plans will then need to be agreed by both the lead local authority and by UK Government to unlock the allocations.
The Fund is intended to help communities across the country, support people living or working in the UK, citizens with permission to work in the UK, and help businesses operating in the UK. Any organisation with legal status can receive funding to deliver a UKSPF intervention. This may include local authorities, public sector organisations, higher and further education institutions, private sector companies, voluntary organisations and registered charities.
Locally, funds may be awarded through:
- Grants to public or private sector organisations.
- Commissioning third party organisations.
- Procurement of service provision.
- In-house provision.
Loans to organisations or businesses may also be appropriate in limited circumstances. However, loan funding requires specific expertise and will be subject to close scrutiny.
The Government will pay each lead local authority in England, Scotland and Wales annually in advance. In 2022-23, funding will be paid once the local investment plan has been signed off.
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, said:
‘The UK Shared Prosperity Fund will help to unleash the creativity and talent of communities that have for too long been overlooked and undervalued.
‘By targeting this funding at areas of the country that need it the most, we will help spread opportunity and level up in every part of the United Kingdom.’
Investment plans should be submitted during the submission window, which opens on 30 June 2022 and closes on 1 August 2022.