Initial details emerge of the £4 billion ‘Levelling Up’ Fund and the ‘UK Shared Prosperity’ Fund

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has committed to a “new, holistic, place-based approach” to funding community projects and programmes. 

As part of the Spending Review last week, the Chancellor announced a £4bn “Levelling Up Fund” to deliver a range of community projects by the end of this parliament. 

The Spending Review document also set out plans for the much-anticipated UK Shared Prosperity Fund. This is the fund that is intended to replace funding that previously came from the European Union. 

Further details for both funds will be announced in early 2021.

Some £600m will be available through the “Levelling Up Fund” next year for projects that have the support of their local community. Up to £4bn will be available by May 2024. 

The government will publish a prospectus for the fund and launch the first round of competitions in 2021. 

The new fund will invest in local projects worth up to £20m. This includes bypasses and other local road schemes, bus lanes, railway station upgrades, regenerating eyesores, upgrading town centres and community infrastructure, and local arts and culture.

The Fund will be managed jointly between the Treasury, the Department for Transport and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. 

The Shared Prosperity Fund

After the UK voted to leave the European Union, the government committed to creating a Shared Prosperity Fund (UK SPF), which will replace the European Structural and Investment Funds that are no longer available to UK organisations.  

There has been no formal consultation with the charity sector about the fund, but charities have argued that charities and communities should be involved in designing it. 

Programmes that received support “will display common branding”, and total UK funding will be around £1.5bn a year. 

The document said: “A portion of the UK SPF will target places most in need across the UK, such as ex-industrial areas, deprived towns and rural and coastal communities. It will support people and communities, opening up new opportunities and spurring regeneration and innovation.” 

A framework for what will be prioritised is likely to include things like work-based training investment in communities, including cultural and sporting facilities, civic, green and rural infrastructure, and community-owned assets.

A second tranche of funding will be aimed at “people most in need through bespoke employment and skills programmes that are tailored to local need”. 

The government said this will look to specifically support people who face particular barriers.

Further details will be published in the spring. There will be extra funding in 2021-22 to help local areas prepare for the introduction of the UKSPF.

In response, charities said that the new funding was an opportunity, but also urged the government to involve the sector more. 

Paul Winyard, policy manager at NCVO, said:

“Thankfully more details on the fabled UK SPF have finally emerged. But significant questions remain; not least what cut of the UK SPF will go to marginalised communities and what role will charities play in the pilot schemes. The sector will be eagerly awaiting the release of details on the UKSPF and the new ‘levelling up’ fund next year.” 

On the government’s broader agenda, he added:

“The government has the unenviable task of trying to navigate some very choppy economic waters created by the pandemic and the forthcoming end of the Brexit transition period. But the failure to focus more on social infrastructure and recognise the financial hardship that the voluntary sector is facing was a missed opportunity for a government attempting to ‘level up’ communities.” 

Source: Civil Society News