Posted inUncategorized

Welsh economy minister slams UK Government’s ‘chaotic and unwelcome’ replacement EU funding

Wales’ economy minister described replacement EU funding mechanisms as “chaotic and unwelcome” during a Senedd debate.

Vaughan Gething said the UK Government’s shared prosperity fund is smaller, less flexible and narrower in scope than the EU funding it replaces.

The economy minister described the UK’s Multiply numeracy programme as an “incoherent and half-baked” policy that was imposed on Wales.

He said: “Regional economic development and adult numeracy are plainly devolved areas.”

Mr Gething criticised the UK Government’s “deliberate and unacceptable entry into this space, without the involvement of the Welsh Government or this Senedd”, saying it has created a fragmented funding landscape.

He warned that universities, colleges, businesses and charities have had to scale back services, which has cost jobs.

Paul Davies, who chairs the economy committee, led the debate following an inquiry into post-EU regional development funding.

He said MSs were not able to get to the bottom of the “vexed” question of whether the money Wales receives through the UK Government matches former EU funding.

Steve Fothergill, an economist and expert in economic regeneration, told the committee: “It’s a very odd situation to be in, to say that both parties are right in all of this – but they are because they’re looking at rather different things.

“One’s looking at actual spending in financial years and, in that sense, the UK Government is correct; the Welsh Government is looking at financial commitments, which is a different measure, and Vaughan Gething is correct on that front.”

The committee heard widespread concerns about the lack of Welsh Government involvement in the design and implementation of the shared prosperity fund.

Mr Davies, the former Conservative Senedd group leader, said the UK Government was invited to appear before the committee but submitted written evidence instead.

He told MSs that one of the key themes from the committee’s report was the need to make spending decisions at the right level.

“Welsh local authorities were pleased with the opportunity to decide priorities locally and to have control over delivery,” said the shadow economy minister.

“However, tight timescales to develop investment plans, delays to approving these and the short time frame to spend funds have hampered their ability to plan and deliver projects.”.

The Preseli Pembrokeshire MS highlighted the UK Government’s response to the report’s 24 recommendations, welcoming a commitment to working with Welsh ministers.

Luke Fletcher, Plaid Cymru’s shadow minister, argued it is clear that Wales will lose out from the end of EU structural funding.

The South Wales West MS said a key advantage of EU structural funding was multi-annual frameworks, allowing for longer term planning and budgeting.

He said: “How can we best utilise funding meant for economic development, if we are running said funding on an annual basis? It doesn’t make sense.

“And the reality is that we’re already seeing the impact of the end of EU structural funding: it’s meant, for example, the end of Fflecsi Bwcabus services in Ceredigion.”

Vikki Howells, a labour backbencher, who represents Cynon Valley, criticised the UK Government’s “cursory” reply, saying it has only offered “warm words” on engagement.

She said: “If the devolution settlement is to be respected, decisions as to how this regional funding within Wales is allocated should not, and must not, solely be the preserve of MPs from Surrey and Yorkshire.”

Conservative MS Samuel Kurtz hit back, saying the Welsh Government’s response “conveniently ignores” problems Welsh ministers are experiencing with the introduction and management of post-EU agricultural support schemes.

He highlighted Prof Fothergill’s evidence that the shared prosperity fund does “pretty much match what the EU funds were previously worth, with a tweak for inflation”.

Mr Gething accepted the report’s recommendations aimed at the Welsh Government.

He agreed with Alun Davies and Carolyn Thomas, two Labour backbenchers, that lessons learned from previous EU structural funding rounds have been “thrown overboard”.

Mr Gething told the debate on Wednesday November 8: “This has made Wales-wide, regional or cross-border projects virtually impossible and that is not a mistake – it is a UK Government design choice.”

Posted inNews

Welsh economy minister slams UK Government’s ‘chaotic and unwelcome’ replacement EU funding

the senedd in cardiff bay
The Senedd Credit: Senedd Cymru / Welsh Parliament