EU Structural Funds
The EU allocates money through its Structural and Investment Funds to all Member States, in order to aid the economic development of their various regions and to help less developed regions to catch up. Because 63% of Wales’s population live within one of the UK’s two regions in the EU’s ‘less developed’ category (West Wales and the Valleys – the other is Cornwall and Isles of Scilly), Wales receives a high level of funding. Over the 2014-20 EU financial framework period, Wales is set to receive €3.1 billion in structural funding. This works out as an average of €140 per person per year, nearly four times the UK average of €36.
19% of structural funding in Wales over this period has been allocated to educational and vocational training. The other major sectors receiving funding are research and innovation (16%), low-carbon economy (14%), sustainable and quality employment (13%) and competitiveness of SMEs (10%).
The Structural Funds are administered by their Managing Authorities – in Wales, the Welsh Government carries out this role. Within England BEIS is the Managing Authority, while the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive are responsible for delivering the funds in their own nations.
The UK Shared Prosperity Fund
Once the UK has left the EU (and after any transition period has ended), it is no longer expected to receive structural funding. In the 2017 Conservative manifesto (and later in the November 2017 Industrial Strategy), the Government therefore committed to creating a Shared Prosperity Fund to replace the money that the various areas of the UK currently receive in structural funding.
In July 2018, James Brokenshire (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government) made a Written Statement setting out more details about the Fund. The statement confirmed that the Fund’s purpose is to “tackle inequalities between communities by raising productivity, especially in those parts of our country whose economies are furthest behind”, and that it will operate right across the UK. It also stated that the Government would consult on how the Fund should work during 2018.
A PQ answered by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has confirmed that this consultation is still intended to take place before the end of 2018, and that decisions on the operation and allocation of the Fund will be taken as part of the Spending Review in 2019.