The Head of Planning, Regeneration and Leisure Services presented a report on the subject of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
Cabinet was informed that Bromsgrove had been allocated £2.8 million in the UK Shared Prosperity Fund by the Government. The Council needed to submit an Investment Plan to the Government by 1st August 2022, detailing how this funding would be spent.
The Government had identified three pillars that Councils needed to address through the expenditure of the funding. These pillars included:
· Communities and Place
· Supporting Local Business
· People and Skills
In addition, there were 41 interventions that had been identified by the Government for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund scheme. Local authorities needed to demonstrate in the Investment Plan which of these interventions would be addressed through the expenditure of the funding at the local level. Officers were suggesting links to particular interventions, based on local knowledge and information about projects that had already been submitted for consideration.
Councils were required to explain in the investment plan how the funding would be allocated in relation to the Government’s three key pillars for the scheme. In Bromsgrove, Officers were suggesting that 40 per cent of the funding should be allocated to Communities and Place and 30 per cent allocated each to Supporting Local Business and People and Skills respectively. The Government had clarified that Councils would have the flexibility to vary these allocations by up to 30 per cent.
The UK Shared Prosperity Funding would be available for a three-year period, from 2022/23 to 2024/25. The level of funding available in each year was due to increase from £340,499 in 2022/23 to £1.784 million in 2024/25. The funding allocated to year three of the programme was particularly high because this would be the only year in which funding would be available for the People and Skills pillar. Prior to this date, EU funding would continue to be used to address the skills agenda. Underspends could be carried over from one year to the next, however, the Council would need to be able to demonstrate to the Government that there were credible plans in place to ensure that both this funding and those funds allocated for that year would be spent within the year.
Under the terms of the scheme, Councils were able to allocate a portion of the funding for use for administrative purposes. Due to the capacity constraints impacting on local government, Officers were proposing that 4 per cent of the funding should be allocated to administration of the scheme.
Members welcomed the proposals detailed in the report and the allocation of £2.8 million UK Shared Prosperity Funding to Bromsgrove District. In discussing the funding, Members questioned the potential to alter the interventions that had been identified for inclusion in the scheme at this stage and the suggestion was made that E10 (funding for local sports facilities, tournaments, teams and leagues; to bring people together) should be added to the list of interventions for the District. The suggestion was also made that E41 (funding to support local digital skills) could be added to the list, as this would help to support people in the community, particularly elderly residents, to develop the skills needed to work in a digital manner. Officers explained that changes could be made to the list of interventions and there would be some work required to amend the planned allocation of funding between the various interventions.
Consideration was given to the timescales in which the funding would need to be spent. Cabinet was advised that there were some concerns about the relatively tight timescales available and the need for the Council to be able to justify any underspends to the Government in order not to lose any of the funding.
Reference was made to the process that would be followed, following approval of the investment plan, when considering and approving proposed projects. Officers clarified that the investment plan would provide the criteria against which projects would be assessed. Officers were requesting delegated authority, following consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Regeneration and Strategic Partnerships, to develop projects and to deliver the outcomes. In a context in which decisions would need to be taken and the funding spent in extremely tight timescales, Members agreed that this proposal should be amended to also grant authority to agree the projects.
1) The Investment Plan is approved for submission to the UK Government;
2) Authority to finalise the Investment plan be delegated to the Head of North Worcestershire Economic Development and Regeneration following consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Regeneration and Strategic Partnerships and in light of advice from the Bromsgrove Partnership;
3) Authority to develop and agree projects to deliver the outcomes contained in the investment plan be delegated to the Head of North Worcestershire Economic Development and Regeneration following consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Regeneration and Strategic Partnerships and in light of advice from the Bromsgrove Partnership; and
4) The Medium Term Financial Strategy is amended to include the UK Shared Prosperity Fund Allocation when next reviewed.