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The UK Government’s decision to exclude Caerphilly County Borough from a list of areas set to receive new funding is “unjustifiable”, a Plaid Cymru candidate has said.
Delyth Jewell, who has been a regional Senedd Member since 2019, and is standing in Caerphilly at this year’s Senedd Elections, has written to the UK Government to reconsider how the funding is allocated.
What is the new funding?
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.
The UK will no longer receive European funding after 2023, following Britain’s exit from the European Union last year.
Ms Jewell said: “The Tories’ decision to exclude Caerphilly from the Community Renewal Fund isn’t just unjust: it’s unjustifiable, particularly given their promise to replace every penny of EU funding Wales would lose due to Brexit, and the fact that there’s clear and incontrovertible evidence that Caerphilly should have been included as a priority area.”
She has written to the government calling for it to “recalculate the metrics” used for Caerphilly, and to make the calculations public.
Ms Jewell added: “If they refuse to do so, I will lead calls for a public inquiry into the fund’s handling and explore possible avenues for legal action.”
Caerphilly’s Labour Member of Parliament, Wayne David, has also criticised the UK Government for excluding Caerphilly.
He 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 earlier this month, Mr David said he is worried Caerphilly’s exclusion from the Community Renewal Fund could mean it isn’t considered for funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
“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 said.
The UK Government has used a range of data to determine which areas are eligible for funding from the Community Renewal Fund.
These factors include unemployment rates, population density, average household income, skills and the productivity of businesses based in each area.
Ms Jewell said: “My team analysed the productivity data, as published by the Office for National Statistics, and found that 35 places included on the list were in areas with higher productivity than Caerphilly.
“Out of these 35, 22 contained constituencies with Tory MPs, 10 contained red wall seats they won in 2019, a further eight had Tory Ministers and least surprising of all, Hartlepool is included – where a key by-election that the Tories hope to win is imminent.
“To put this into context, Hartlepool has a productivity rating of 96.5% of the UK average, whereas the Caerphilly area’s productivity rating is 83.9%.”
Ms Jewell added: “Caerphilly should score highly on other indicators the UK Government claimed they used as well, such as household income. The average annual household income in Caerphilly is £15,339 per head which is substantially lower than the UK average of £21,109 and lower than every single English region.
“Given that the Tories have so far refused to publish their calculations for working out the priority areas to target this funding, the conclusion that many people will draw is that these decisions are made using political rather than mathematical calculations, hanging places like Caerphilly out to dry.”
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The Community Renewal Fund will go straight from UK Government into the hands of local authorities. However, this has received criticism in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as it bypasses the devolved governments in each of those nations.
Caerphilly MP Mr David called it a “crude attempt to undermine devolution”.
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.
What the UK Government said
Conservative MP Robert Jenrick, 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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