Steve Double, Member of Parliament for St Austell and Newquay, has this week questioned the Prime Minister on the Conservative manifesto commitment to replace EU Structural funding once we leave the EU.
Speaking in Parliament on Monday in the debate on the European Council, Steve said:
“I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister refer earlier to our manifesto commitment to create a UK shared prosperity fund… will she confirm that the Government are committed to bringing forward such a fund to replace the EU structural funding that has been so important to places such as Cornwall?”
Replacing the EU’s money (‘structural funds) which the Duchy and other parts of the country have come to rely on so heavily will be THE major challenge for administrators and politicians representing Cornish interests over the next few years.
It will be very difficult to take major strategic investment decisions until those that control the purse strings know where, the replacement money, if any is coming from.
Most worrying for Cornwall is the prospect of the rules changing away from a needs / means based funding environment (where poor places like Cornwall get priority) to a approach based on whether or not you fit in with the Government’s ‘industrial strategy’ and favoured ways of governance, like Northern Powerhouses and Regional Mayors.
As a reminder, the Conservative Manifesto Statement said :
United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund
We believe in one nation – in helping every part of our country share in the prosperity and opportunity of our great United Kingdom. Yet there is much to do. Current EU-wide structural funding was designed to tackle disparities but it is expensive to administer and poorly targeted. As we leave the European Union, we must look at how we can better reduce and eliminate these inequalities.
We will use the structural fund money that comes back to the UK following Brexit to create a United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund, specifically designed to reduce inequalities between communities across our four nations. The money that is spent will help deliver sustainable, inclusive growth based on our modern industrial strategy. We will consult widely on the design of the fund, including with the devolved administrations, local authorities, businesses and public bodies. The UK Shared Prosperity Fund will be cheap to administer, low in bureaucracy and targeted where it is needed most”.
In reply to Steve Double’s admittedly good effort of a question, the Prime Minister could only offer the St Austell MP a characteristically vague reply:
“We want to ensure that when we are no longer sending these huge sums of money to the European Union every year, some of the money that is available can be used in that way. There is a real need to ensure that we do that as effectively as possible so that the money has the maximum impact across all parts of the United Kingdom.” answered the PM.
Speaking after the debate, Steve said:
“I was pleased that the Prime Minister has confirmed our commitment to replace the EU funding. The Government understands the importance of distributing the money we will no longer be sending to the EU across the whole of the UK. I will certainly work with my fellow Cornish Conservative MP colleagues to ensure Cornwall gets our fair share from these funds.”
We can only hope to get a more detailed answer soon.