UK Minister defends distribution of EU replacement funds that bypass Welsh Government
The chief secretary to the UK treasury has defended side-lining the Welsh Government over the allocation of funds to replace EU support after Brexit and says the replacement funding is “better tailored” to Welsh people’s needs.
The UK Government’s decision to bypass the Welsh Government and directly allocate funding via UK-wide funds was described as a “deliberate assault on Welsh devolution,” by Economy Minister Vaughan Gething in a Senedd debate last week and he accused UK Ministers of breaking repeated EU referendum promises that Wales “will not be a penny worse off” outside the EU.
Stephen Barclay told BBC Wales: “There’s much closer working now between the UK government and local authorities across Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, much more so than in the past.”
“We have much more control over the schemes that we design so they are better tailored to the needs of the Welsh people – that is the opportunity that Brexit unlocks but the support will be there, and we made that commitment.
“One of the issues raised with me by a number of the Welsh MPs is how often, for example, in north Wales it’s important that schemes look across the border because, obviously, there’s a big interaction between north Wales and schemes the other side of the border and that’s one of the opportunities we have.
“It’s about designing schemes in the way that work best for the areas we’re supporting, taking a more bespoke approach, that’s why we’re piloting through the UK SPF (shared prosperity fund) a number of different options.
“That’s why we’re working closely with the business community, including the Welsh secretary meeting with the CBI [Confederation of British Industry] so we get these schemes right and level up across the United Kingdom.”
If the UK had remained in the EU, the government estimates Wales would have had new EU Structural funding worth at least £375m each year for seven years from January 2021; this would be on top of funding from the current EU programmes.
The pilot to the Shared Prosperity Fund, called the Community Renewal Fund, is worth £220m across the UK in this financial year, representing a huge cut.
Under the UK-wide £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, a total of £800m has been set aside for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over four years, with Wales likely to receive £10m a year, less than £450,000 per local authority.