The UK Government is facing increased calls to change the way it determines which areas are included in its new Community Renewal Fund.
It comes after Caerphilly County Borough was excluded from a list of 100 areas set to benefit from the funding.
Caerphilly County Borough Council leader Philippa Marsden has, alongside Caerphilly MP Wayne David, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney MP Gerald Jones and Islwyn MP Chris Evans, written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to raise her concerns.
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.
The funding will go straight from the UK Government to local authorities – bypassing the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
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.
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.
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.
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“Our communities deserve better”
Cllr Marsden said: “Why has Caerphilly been excluded from accessing much needed funding when we also have some of the poorest communities in the country?
“Our communities deserve better and I will fight to ensure that we receive fair treatment and fair funding from the government.
“If the council is unable to access this funding, it could have a significant impact upon our future ambitions and ability to support our most disadvantaged residents. This must never happen again, and we are demanding that the UK Government takes a different approach in the future”.
Caerphilly MP Mr David said: “Without doubt, the Caerphilly Borough has some of the worst social and economic deprivation in the south Wales valleys, and yet it has been excluded from the priority list.
“We want the UK Government to recognise that this is wrong and use different criteria for deciding funding allocations.
“This will be extremely important for the much larger Shared Prosperity Fund which is to follow on from the Community Regeneration Fund.”
Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru candidate Delyth 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 too 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.”
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.
UK Government response
A UK Government spokesperson said: “Although open to all places, to ensure the UK Community Renewal Fund funding reaches the most in need, we have identified 100 priority places based on an index of economic resilience across Great Britain, which measures productivity, household income, unemployment, skills and population density.
“We are committed to transparency and have published a methodological note explaining how the 100 priority places were determined.
“The UK Community Renewal Fund will prioritise applications that target the top 100 places, alongside a good contribution to strategic fit and delivery/effectiveness.
“This does not mean that non-priority places, including Caerphilly, should not apply. Applications from non-priority places with a strong alignment with strategic fit and good delivery/effectiveness may also receive funding.”
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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