To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what plans he has for funding for rural development after the end of the LEADER programme and when the UK ceases to have access to EU Structural Funds; and what priority will rural businesses, communities and the environment receive in relation to the Shared Prosperity Fund.
Through the socio-economic schemes within the Rural Development Programme for England we are investing over £500 million in rural business and communities. This includes over £250 million for rural business growth and broadband infrastructure through the Growth Programme and £150 million for locally-identified business and community priorities through LEADER.
Our manifesto committed to establishing the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) to reduce inequalities between communities by raising productivity, following our departure from the EU. The Fund will operate across the UK in rural and urban areas. It will tackle inequalities between communities, especially in those parts of our country whose economies are furthest behind. Leaving the EU will allow us to spend money according to our own priorities rather than those set by the EU.
It is intended that simplified administration will ensure that investments are targeted effectively to align with the challenges faced by places across the country and supported by strong evidence about what works at the local level. This includes considering current European investments in rural economies and lessons from the community-led LEADER programme.
We want to ensure that the UKSPF works for rural businesses, communities and the environment, and the design of the fund will take into account the dynamics of rural economies and the particular challenges faced by rural communities. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is responsible for delivering the UKSPF. Defra officials are working closely with MHCLG to develop the ways in which the UKSPF will support the rural economy after we leave the EU.
We will consult widely on the design of the UKSPF. Over the past year we have held 25 engagement events across the UK with over 500 representatives from a breadth of sectors, in order to aid policy development. The consultation will build upon these early conversations with decisions on how it will operate, its priorities and budget to be determined at the forthcoming spending review.