What recent discussions he has had with elected members in the devolved Administrations on the (a) equity and (b) transparency of the (i) levelling-up fund and (ii) UK shared prosperity fund.
The UK shared prosperity fund will deliver funding to all parts of our United Kingdom, and our allocation approach gives every region and nation a real-terms match with EU funding. Details are published on gov.uk. We have engaged with the devolved Administrations at all levels on the design of the fund, and their input has helped to inform the most appropriate mix of interventions and local allocations for each part of the United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend puts it very well. The UK shared prosperity fund, the levelling-up fund and, indeed, the community ownership fund, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales is championing today, together help communities such as Bridgend, which my hon. Friend represents so effectively, to provide more opportunities to more citizens.
“Welsh government will not help deliver UK government programmes in Wales we consider to be flawed.”
Will my right hon. Friend assure the residents of Aberconwy that such directions will not be allowed to frustrate the sharing of prosperity in Wales?
My hon. Friend raises a very important point, and I am disappointed. Vaughan Gething is a nice guy but it is a mistake, when we are decentralising power and resources to local government in Wales, for the Welsh Government and the Senedd to take that position. It is vital that we work together in the interest of the whole United Kingdom. This Parliament has been clear about ensuring that funding is available to local government and councillors in Wales of every party. The Welsh Government’s approach does not serve Wales well.
This Government fought and won the last election with a commitment to ensuring that post-Brexit funding will, at a minimum, match European Union subsidies, but the shared prosperity fund allocated to the Liverpool city region is £10 million a year less than we previously received from the EU. Will the Secretary of State concede that this is the latest in a long line of broken Tory promises? And will he commit to reforming an out-of-date, inadequate and wholly arbitrary funding formula that has seen some of the most deprived communities in the country lose out on vital sources of funding?
I respectfully disagree with the hon. Gentleman. If we look at not just the UK shared prosperity fund but the other investment in the Liverpool city region, we will see that this Government are absolutely committed not just to matching but to exceeding the support that was given under the European Union. I am looking forward to visiting the Liverpool city region later this week to discuss with the combined authority Mayor Steve Rotheram and others how levelling up is working on the ground.
The recent Public Accounts Committee report reminds us:
“Economic development is a devolved power”,
but decisions that would previously have been made according to Scottish Government priorities are now
“based entirely on UK Government’s assessment of priorities.”
In short, that is not decentralisation; it is a power grab. What will the Department do to address the PAC’s scepticism about how closely devolved priorities have been accommodated within the shared prosperity fund and other policies?
The hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, be aware that I had the opportunity of speaking to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Public Administration Committee, which covers these questions. I was struck by the fact that Scottish National party MSPs and, indeed, a Green MSP were all eager for the UK Government to play an even more assertive role in deploying the levelling-up and UK shared prosperity funds. The rhetoric of a power grab 12 months ago has been replaced by a desire to work constructively. I should note, of course, that the Chairman of that Committee is the partner of his party’s Front-Bench spokesperson here, Patricia Gibson. Those MSPs are, I think, closer to their communities than distant West—Westminster figures.
It has been very good to work closely with Pembrokeshire County Council over the last 12 months on a successful bid to the levelling-up fund to improve Haverfordwest town centre. Does my right hon. Friend agree that when it comes to Wales, local authorities really value the new direct relationship with the UK Government, and that the levelling-up fund creates new opportunities for partnership that do not exclude devolved Government and provide more opportunities for local Members of Parliament to get in and help their communities work on solutions?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. When I talk on calls to local authorities in Scotland, as well as local authorities in Wales, it is striking how grateful they are that the UK Government are taking a pro-devolution, pro-decentralisation approach. That is in stark contrast to the Welsh Assembly Government and the Scottish Government, who are centralising power in Cardiff and Edinburgh and not listening to the communities so well represented on these Benches.
Further to the question from my hon. Friend Mick Whitley, South Yorkshire will also be disadvantaged because of a miscalculation in the previous round of funding that has been baked into the new allocation process. This means that while Cornwall will get £229 per head, South Yorkshire will get £33 per head. I do not begrudge Cornwall a penny of that money, but I am sure that the Secretary of State will understand why I want a fair deal for my constituents in South Yorkshire. Will he help me get it?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point and for reminding the House that we have stuck to our manifesto commitment to ensure that, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Cornwall was absolutely protected. I take his point about the calculations for South Yorkshire. I look forward to working with him, South Yorkshire MPs and Oliver Coppard to ensure that appropriate resource is provided. Just the other week, I had the opportunity to see the great work that is being carried forward in both Sheffield and Barnsley on his behalf.
Despite a manifesto promise to
“at a minimum match the size” of the EU structural funds, the shared prosperity fund means £371 million less a year for English regions, as illustrated by hon. Members in the Chamber today. Of course, that cut comes at a time when the Conservative-led Local Government Association rightfully argues that the current council settlement falls £2 billion a year short of what is needed because of sky-high inflation. How does the Secretary of State plan to respond urgently to that plea?
It is important that we fund local government appropriately, and we can do so only because of the way in which our economy has been well managed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—[Interruption.] I am afraid that every time we hear from Labour Front Benchers, we hear another plea for more spending, but never, ever do they give an explanation of where the money will come from. The last time there was a Labour Chief Secretary, he left a note saying that there was no money left. Lord preserve us from another Labour Government, who would borrow and spend and take this country back to bankruptcy.
Despite the Secretary of State’s bluster, he will be aware that the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy has written to him—I have the letter right here—to express her deep concerns about the UK Government’s lack of engagement during the drafting of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill and about how it cuts across devolved responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament. Will the Secretary of State meet representatives from the Scottish Parliament specifically to discuss the democratic imperative of respect for the powers of that Parliament? Or does he simply not recognise the democratic legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament?
Well, he is holding the Scottish Government to account. Nobody else is doing it.
I had the opportunity to appear in front of Mr Ken Gibson a few months ago—what a pleasure it was. The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are our partners in making sure that we can make levelling up a success. An example of that is the fact that the Cabinet Secretary whose letter the hon. Lady so elegantly holds has been working with the UK Government to deliver two new freeports in Scotland that would not have been possible if we were still in the European Union. I am glad to see the Scottish Government embracing one of the benefits of Brexit.