Last week the government announced the first allocations of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is intended to replace regional European funding. The decision to award South Yorkshire less than £40 million over three years in the first round, when EU funding would have amounted to more than twenty times as much over seven years, was greeted with anger.
It has now emerged that South Yorkshire’s three Conservative MPs last year refused to back calls to ensure our county didn’t lose out on the funding we would have received if Britain had remained in the EU – prompting the question: did they already
know we were going to lose out?
In 2019 the Conservative Party manifesto committed that the UKSPF would “not only be better targeted at the UK’s specific needs, but at a minimum match the size of those funds in each nation.”
In the Autumn Statement last year, the government extended this commitment, saying; “the Budget and SR [Spending Review] reaffirms that total funding through the UKSPF will at a minimum match the size of EU Funds in each nation and in Cornwall, each year.”
The inclusion of Cornwall prompted South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis to coordinate a letter to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Michael Gove, pointing out that South Yorkshire is one of four areas of the UK that would now qualify for additional EU funding, and seeking assurances that we would not miss out.
All South Yorkshire’s council leaders and MPs co-signed the letter – except the three Conservatives, including Rother Valley MP Alexander Stafford. Whilst South Yorkshire would be entitled to £900 million over seven years in European Funding, last week the government announced just £38 million in the first three year round. The IPPR think tank said that, contrary to Conservative commitments, the UKSPF nationally amounts to a 43% reduction in funding.
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership which was founded by the former Conservative Chancellor George Osborne, was quoted as saying;
“We were promised that no nation would be worse off post Brexit but, when you take out the smoke and mirrors, the data doesn’t lie. These funds helped young people find work, supported small businesses and backed vital medical research – cutting it
will have catastrophic consequences for our economy.”
The Labour Mayor of South Yorkshire, Dan Jarvis described the decision as “an outrage”, adding it “exemplifies this Government’s complete contempt for people in our region.”
Labour Leader of Rotherham Council, Cllr Chris Read said;
“For decades European regional funding has been essential to regeneration across South Yorkshire – it was money that had to be spent in our part of the world, and couldn’t be intercepted by the government in Westminster. It was no wonder that the
Conservatives felt obliged to tell everyone that we wouldn’t lose out after Brexit, but it was always curious that South Yorkshire’s Tories wouldn’t join forces with us to ask simply that we be treated the same way as Cornwall. But now we know the truth; once again they’re taking funding away from Rotherham.”
He added; “That does raise the question: did South Yorkshire’s Conservatives already know we were going to lose out five months ago? Is that why they wouldn’t argue for what was supposed to be their own party’s policy? Businesses and community groups have
relied on this money for a long time, and people in Rotherham were told at the referendum that we couldn’t lose out. They just deserve to know the truth. While the government has been taking out adverts to spin the benefits of so-called ‘Levelling Up’, the reality is they’ve sold out our communities.”.