On June 23, 2016, Caerphilly County Borough voted to leave the European Union.
But in the run-up to the election, little was set in stone about how EU money coming into Wales would be replaced following Brexit.
But nearly five years after that historic referendum, and just over a year after the UK officially left the EU, those questions have been answered.
The UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund, which is set to replace EU funding, will come into force from next year, but in the meantime, the Community Renewal Fund – which is a precursor to the Shared Prosperity Fund – has been announced.
However, Caerphilly County Borough will not receive a penny of funding.
Last month, the UK Government announced 100 ‘priority areas’ would benefit from the new Community Renewal Fund. Caerphilly County Borough was not included.
Caerphilly’s Member of Parliament, Wayne David, described the borough’s exclusion from the funding as “disgraceful,” and called it: “political bias at its very worst.”
What is the Community Renewal Fund?
The Community Renewal Fund is a new £220m package provided by the UK Government.
It is a precursor to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund – which will launch in 2022.
One hundred areas across the UK will benefit from the Community Renewal Fund – which will bypass Welsh Government and go straight to local councils.
Eleven council areas in Wales have been included in the funding. These are: Blaenau Gwent, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Conwy, Isle of Anglesey, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Swansea and Torfaen.
UK Shared Prosperity Fund
This fund will be launched in 2022, and is a replacement for European Commission development and social fund grants.
Reaction to Caerphilly’s exclusion
Caerphilly MP Mr David, who represents Labour, said: “The Conservative Government in Westminster is giving resources to well-off areas, where Rishi Sunak [UK Chancellor] just happens to be the MP [Richmond, Yorkshire], and deliberately excluding needy areas like the Caerphilly Borough.
“This new fund is supposed to be compensating places like Caerphilly, which are losing European funding. Despite its promises, the Tory Government is helping areas which are clearly already well-off, at the expense of areas like the Caerphilly Borough, which are in much greater need of support.”
Speaking to Caerphilly Observer, Mr David spoke of his concern that Caerphilly’s exclusion from the Community Renewal Fund could mean it isn’t considered for funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
“I’m extremely concerned. The Shared Prosperity Fund is big money. Caerphilly had significant sums from Europe.”
Mr David called on the UK Government to be transparent on how it decided which areas would receive funding.
“This fund, we’re led to believe, was meant to help the poorest areas of the UK.
“Caerphilly Borough contains some of the least well-off areas in the whole of the UK, such as Lansbury Park, Bargoed, and the top end of the Rhymney Valley for example. It’s beyond belief.”
He also called the UK Government’s decision to bypass Welsh Government as a “crude attempt to undermine devolution”.
Mr David said he will raise the matter with the Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart MP, in a meeting later this month.
Meanwhile, Welsh Government’s Finance Minister Rebecca Evans, alongside Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister Conor Murphy and Scotland’s Minister for Trade, Innovation and Public Finance Ivan McKee, issued a joint statement on March 24, calling on the UK Government to stop bypassing devolved governments.
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What the UK Government said
Robert Jenrick MP, the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said: “Investment from EU Structural Funds will continue to be spent by local areas until 2023 and this government has committed to at least matching EU receipts through the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund, on average reaching around £1.5 billion a year.
“This new Fund, to be launched in 2022, will operate throughout the UK and play a part in uniting and levelling up the whole country.”
Caerphilly Observer has sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) Request to the UK Government’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, asking how Caerphilly scored against the criteria set out by UK Government.
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