Agenda item

The United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund



Councillor John Spanswick - Cabinet Member Communities

Councillor Neelo Farr – Cabinet Member Regeneration

Councillor Rhys Goode – Cabinet Member Wellbeing and Future Generations


Janine Nightingale - Corporate Director, Communities

Ieuan Sherwood – Group Manager – Economy, Natural Resources & Sustainability



The Corporate Director - Communities introduced the report on the United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) which was the UK Government replacement for the European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF), following the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union (EU) on 31 Jan 2020. She advised that Bridgend’s allocation to date was £23 million which had to be spent over three years and was around half of what they were used to receiving from the EU, so it had been a challenge putting the investment plan together. It was important for the Committee to understand that it was for initiatives across the County, they had worked with the third sector and colleges to put the plan together and should have a decision on the investment plan by mid-October.


The Group Manager, Economy, Natural Resources and Sustainability advised the purpose of the report was to provide an update on their work on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and an overview in Appendix one of the proposals that may go forward. He advised that alongside the People in Skills priority there was a dedicated resource specifically for a UK wide intervention called Multiply, to improve adult numeracy skills within the region.


He explained that local authorities had been invited to collaborate and feed into one overall local investment plan for the area. As part of the agreement, it had been agreed that Rhondda Cynon Taff would assume the role of the lead local authority for the region, so  the UK Government would have one funding agreement direct to Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council and they would have back-to-back agreements with each of the other authorities in the region. There was flexibility as to how it was delivered within Guidance from UK Government, with options for grant funding for procurement, commissioning and in house provision.


He advised whilst they as an Authority were not required to develop their own investment plan, it was important to develop the information in Appendix one which set out their priorities and the best deployment of the Shared Prosperity fund monies. He wished to stress to the Committee that the proposals had been developed in the absence of detailed fund guidance from UK Government and as such was subject to change particularly as some of the proposed activities, delivery models and funding values may  vary.  Looking at delivery Cabinet had agreed a two-tier governance structure, an economic partnership which would draw in multi-sector partners from across the County, within the region and Wales and an internal economic programme board. He explained that whilst they had an overall allocation of £23 million, £3.99M of that was specifically allocated to the Multiply Programme which left £19.1 million for what was considered as core shared prosperity fund activity under three themes. The UK Government suggested that funding was broken down to fixed annual yearly allocations which equated to roughly 12% in year one, 24% in year two and 64% in year three. The multiply allocations were different, in year one 30%, year two 35% and 35% in year three. There was no indication that funding could be rolled forward or that they were going to see multi-annual allocations, which was something they were lobbying hard on, as well as exploring mechanisms with other local authorities in the region and UK Government about how they could develop some flexibility around it.


He advised that 4% of the allocations could be used for administrative purposes. The current profile set out was inclusive of that 4% of Multiply and of an allocation from the Bridgend Shared Prosperity Fund for the delivery of projects by colleagues in Cardiff Capital Region, leaving  in the region of £2.5 million over profile. In September, the Communities Directorate had submitted a growth pressure as part of the 2023-2027 MTFS process to try and meet that shortfall in funding to ensure all the activities could be delivered. If the programme remained overallocated, the responsibility for identifying those gaps would sit with their respective leads in each of the Departments. If not found, the funding available would only be the funding that is allocated as they could not exceed the available budgets. He concluded that the Recommendation of the report was for the Committee to note its contents along with Appendix one.


It was asked why the top slice of £330k going to the Cardiff City Region Deal (CCRD) had been agreed, what would Bridgend receive from this funding and why could it not be funded from the contributions the Authority and the nine other partner Authorities had already made.

Referring to the Appendix Members commented that whilst full of good intent  it was light on detail e.g., it was not clear what the green or net zero market referred to involved.   Lastly with regard to the two-tier governance, Members queried that there had been no mention of Town and Community Councils and asked what their role would be in governance and their ability to help with  delivery.


The Corporate Director and the Group Manager, Economy, Natural Resources and Sustainability advised that there was a small element of £330k going to the CCR as a regional element of the Shared Prosperity Bid and there was recognition that whilst the fund was about local needs and delivery, there were some things better delivered regionally and across Local Authority boundaries. The CCR would look at filling some of the gaps, by bringing the amalgam of money together and having an impactful Regional Programme. The detail of every individual scheme could not be included in the report, and the appendices were an executive summary, however there were detailed cases behind them all.  The intention was for a presentation to be made at the Town and Community Council Forum, asking Members of the Forum how best they see their Organisation’s engagement suited in the delivery of the programme.


Members referred to the top slice if multiplied by 10 being a proportionate amount of money to deliver the deal, and in paragraph  8.2, Table 1 the percentage allocation was a regional allocation of 8.3%, but the Authority’s contribution to the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal was 9.4166%, so asked the reason for the over 1% difference. They also queried why the percentage allocation for Bridgend was  8.3% of the regional allocation and the Administration Authority was receiving 16.2%.  


The Corporate Director - Communities advised that the Shared Prosperity Fund was a UK Government Scheme and the CCR City Deal and their contribution were completely different things and not related.  The allocation was what had been allocated by the UK Government.


Members requested more detail regarding Bridgend County Tourism event support and Bridgend local destination management and marketing.


Officers advised that the events fund that would be a resource to support event organisers to enhance and develop new events within the County Borough, as well as enhancing existing activities also to bring and attract new ones. It was clarified that the destination management side was in relation to the marketing, PR and promotion of the destination as well as opportunities to work across different businesses to develop products and packages. A revised Destination Management Plan would shortly be reported to Cabinet  for consideration.


Members asked on what basis the Authority was getting 8.3% of the regional allocation, who had made the decision and who had put the case forward. Expanding that if 9.4% was their percentage of the Cardiff Capital Regional Deal, 8.3% would be a poor return from the UK Government.



Officers explained the metrics used by UK Government in determining the allocation: 40% of the decision was based on per capita; 30% was used to use the same needs-based index as was used for the  Community Renewal Fund, and; 30% was allocated using the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation, to comprise the total allocation awarded.


Referring to page 26 of the report, Members asked what directly the fund was giving to Bridgend Town Centre as it had been identified as needing improvement.


The Group Manager, Economy, Natural Resources and Sustainability advised that at that point in time there was not a Ward by Ward breakdown of the money for two reasons: predominantly it was a revenue based fund, and; saving for the capital proposals, and all of which would take place across the county Team generally. While a demographic of how many businesses from the Town Centre had applied for the fund would be available, at that point it had not been allocated.


Members requested clarity on the basis and lineage of how things go through Rhondda Cynon Taff Authority as Lead Authority, from the point that the application is made, who the application is made to and the role of the administrating Authority.


Officers advised that a draft legal agreement from Rhondda Cynon Taff had been received which set out how the claims and reporting processes would work and where the accountability would sit. It was clarified that decisions on the allocation and the splits across the region were made by the UK Government first and then within the region, and the local authorities themselves agreed who would be the Lead Authority.


Members asked how confident they could be that they could deliver £23 million in two and half to three years with such a very varied program.


The Corporate Director – Communities responded that it would be very challenging as the £23M would be split into years 1,2 and 3, a decision would not be received until October and the required percentage would need to be spent by next April.  While currently they did not have the resources in the Directorate, options were being explored in terms of moving Officers from some activity onto this, to ensure every resource is maximised. Where they had continuity in revenue there was confidence but where there was new revenue and capital there would be challenges, however Officers were dedicated to making it work and if there was a shift  from fixed annual allocation to multi annual allocation this key point could make a difference.


Following consideration of the report, the Committee made the following recommendations:


1.    That concern is expressed over the risks involved of both insufficient funds to complete the project in addition to achieving the project proposals within the allocated time.


2.    That further concern is expressed regarding the lack of resources and expertise within the Directorate and its ability to cope with the additional work associated with the project. Members did not agree that it was appropriate to transfer staff from other roles and projects as this would be counterproductive. The Committee also noted that the landscape for Local Authorities applying for funding is changing with timescales being very limited and criteria issued at a late stage in the process, meaning the Authority has a narrow timeframe to develop and formalise substantial bids. The Committee therefore recommended that priority needs to be given to resources within the Communities directorate to ensure that not only is it able to successfully take forward this project, but to ensure that the infrastructures are in place to enable the Authority to be best placed to apply and make the most of any future funding opportunities.  As well as a strategic plan being developed, Members recommend that potential projects underneath this be drafted so that when the opportunity arises, they already have the basis for the application.


3.    That strong concerns are expressed over the poor return that Bridgend County Borough had received in their allocation from the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) and the unfairness around the funding mechanism behind this.  The Committee therefore agreed to write directly to those within the UK Government responsible for the SPF to highlight the issues including:


a.    The fact that the allocation does not take into account that Bridgend is one of the fastest growing areas in Wales;

b.    The limited time the Authority has had to both put together proposals and then to utilise the fund and achieve its aims, is unreasonable and potentially puts the project and public funds at risk.


The Committee requested that this letter be copied to both local MPs; Dr Jamie Wallis and Chris Elmore.


The Committee requested:


1.    A copy of any presentation made to the Town and Community Council Forum on Bridgend’s Local Investment Plan proposals.

2.    Further information on how claims will be processed by RCT as the Lead Authority as well as detail on the reporting and accountability process.

3.    Further detail on the project proposals when available including breakdowns of the funding within each proposal.

4.    Clarification as to whether there would be clawback on the funds should the outputs as set out in the proposals, not be achieved.


Supporting documents: