Levelling-up Fund and Shared Prosperity Fund

Wales – in the House of Commons on 17th November 2021.

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Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Chief Whip

What comparative assessment he has made of the equity of allocations from the (a) levelling-up fund and (b) shared prosperity fund to Wales and the rest of the UK.

Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitutional Affairs)

What comparative assessment he has made of the equity of allocations from the (a) levelling-up fund and (b) shared prosperity fund to Wales and the rest of the UK.

Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart The Secretary of State for Wales

Wales is benefiting greatly from local growth funding, receiving above its population share from all three funds: 7% in the first round of the levelling-up fund, 9% in the first round of the community ownership fund and a remarkable 23% of the UK community renewal fund.

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Chief Whip

The principle behind the funds is fine, but the prioritisation of Tory-held seats in both Scotland and Wales reveals them to be just another example of pork barrel politics. Instead of meddling in devolved areas, will the Secretary of State accept that it would be beneficial to the people of the devolved nations to have greater control of decision making to do things for themselves? The Government should devolve more, instead of fiddling in devolved areas.

Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart The Secretary of State for Wales

I hope the hon. Gentleman is able to endorse what I am about to say because, of course, that is exactly what these funds do. For the first time, 22 local authorities in Wales and other stakeholders are having a say in devolution. The Welsh Government do not have a monopoly of wisdom any more than the UK Government do, and we are taking devolution to its dictionary definition. He will probably know this but, under the UK community renewal fund, Labour areas got 44% of the funding, Plaid Cymru areas got 24%, independent areas got 17% and Conservative areas were fourth at 15%.

Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitutional Affairs)

Let us be clear that independent estimates tell us that, over the next five years, the difference between what the devolved Administrations would have got through structural funds and what they will get through the shared prosperity fund is £4 billion. Will the Secretary of State stop promulgating this myth, this deception, that there will be no difference as a result of leaving the EU and admit that this is just another Brexit broken promise?

Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart The Secretary of State for Wales

We are hearing a Brexit broken record, to be honest. The settlement for Wales has gone from £15.9 billion to £18 billion, plus £120 million from the levelling-up fund, plus £47 million from the community renewal fund, plus the community ownership fund, plus more than £300 million-worth of EU tail-off funds, plus £337 million of agriculture funding. It is impossible to come to any conclusion other than that this has been a fantastic settlement for Wales.

Photo of Sarah Atherton Sarah Atherton Conservative, Wrexham

Wrexham was fortunate enough to win one of its two levelling-up fund bids, and Wrexham County Borough Council has committed to redefining the other bid and working with officials. Will the Secretary of State let me and the council know when round 2 of the levelling-up fund will be open for bids?

Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart The Secretary of State for Wales

It will be open in the early part of next year. Any local authority that was not successful in the first round will have a chance to discuss its bid with officials to see how the application can be nuanced to achieve success next year.

Photo of Craig Williams Craig Williams Conservative, Montgomeryshire

Montgomeryshire has not seen such a level of investment for decades. I welcome the Secretary of State’s levelling-up fund and community renewal fund—the list goes on. Mid-Wales has never seen such investment, and I implore him to continue with this proper devolution of working with local councils and asking local people about their priorities, and to get more investment into mid-Wales.

Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart The Secretary of State for Wales

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that every single area of Wales has benefited from these schemes, which was not the case under the previous funding arrangements. It has been a joy to have the feedback and contributions we have had from local authorities across Wales, which really welcome and are getting engaged with this process.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

You would never guess, would you, Mr Speaker, that the allocation of funding can be quite controversial? However, with meaningful consultation, we can reduce the risk of that. Let us suppose that two thirds of the levelling-up fund was allocated to the one third of seats held by Tory MPs in Wales. We could ensure less risk of things being called political bias. In the light of the Institute for Government’s recommendation that the UK Government should consult the Welsh Government at every stage on the shared prosperity fund, and bearing in mind the scathing report by the Public Accounts Committee on the allocation of the towns fund, what in-depth discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Welsh Government on the shared prosperity fund, and when can we expect more information?

Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart The Secretary of State for Wales

The hon. Lady fixates a bit too much on the shared prosperity fund when there are so many other funding sources out there too. Aside from stressing that there is consultation on a range of these things, and I am hoping to meet the First Minister later this week to discuss them, I remind the hon. Lady that the Welsh Government are not the only game in town; we are engaging with more people, in more parts of Wales, than has ever been the case before, and the funding settlements reflect their priorities as much as anything else. I am astonished that she is not welcoming that.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

I am sure the House will be well aware that the Welsh Government have always had a strong relationship with the local government sector in Wales and have always consulted on the sharing out of EU funds. Turning to the amount of those funds, the figures are indisputable: EU funding for Wales would have meant at least £375 million in new money for this year. So with just £46 million for the community renewal fund, the Tories are leaving Wales £330 million worse off, and that is not even counting the £137 million cut in the farm support. So will the Secretary of State now stand up for Wales and pledge that in this transition to the shared prosperity fund Wales will receive not a penny less than we had under EU funding?

Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart The Secretary of State for Wales

I think you would probably reprimand me if I went through all the numbers again, Mr Speaker, so I will have to leave it to the Official Report to enable the hon. Lady to check her figures and work out exactly how well Wales has done with the record settlement. It is beholden on the shadow Secretary of State for Wales to portray a rather more optimistic picture of the future of Wales. If we are interested in attracting investment and creating jobs in Wales, she should be championing our country, not denigrating it at every opportunity she has.