The Council is the lead authority responsible for preparing an Investment Plan identifying how the districts allocation of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) will be used over the next 3 years. This report is advising the Committee of the details of the UKSPF and preparation of the Investment Plan.
The Group Head of Economy in presenting this report provided a short presentation to the Committee.
The Committee was informed that the report explained the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the preparation of the council’s Investment Plan. The UK Shared Prosperity Fund was the Government’s domestic replacement for the European Structural and Investment Programme (ESIF) which the UK continued to participate in until 2023. The ESIF programme was essential for local regeneration, employment and skills. The Government had published its prospectus for the UK Prosperity Fund in April 2022 inviting councils to prepare an Investment Plan. Many councils across the country had been awarded a grant from this fund with this council’s grant being £1.083 m which needed to be spent over three years. A condition of receiving this money was that councils had to prepare an investment plan confirming how this money would be spent. The programme set out the priorities that should be focused on, which were community and place; supporting local businesses; people and skills with the council being required to consult with its communities and stakeholders on what should be included within the Investment Plan. This had been achieved through a process of consultation with the list of stakeholders having been attached as an appendix to the report. Stakeholders had had the opportunity to feed back to the council on what they felt should be included as project ideas and local priorities. This process had been concluded with 118 project ideas being put forward. Moving forward, the process now was to collect that information, to understand what the themes and focuses were and to see if these matched with the council’s local priorities prior to matching these against the council’s vision. The slides before the committee where then explained highlighting that each project or theme had to have an input and an outcome matching the Government’s interventions which were explained.
In developing the Investment Plan for the council, the confirmed three themes of the fund were explained in further detail and that there was a need for the council to be able to demonstrate how its plan would contribute towards these.
Arun’s funding was explained and what could be spent and when. It was highlighted that the council was at the preparation stage of its plan which had to be submitted on 1 August 2022. Once the plan had been completed and if accepted by Government, it was explained that the council would consult further with its partners and stakeholders explaining the framework of the plan and inviting them to put more substantial bids forward that the council could then assess and hopefully support.
The Chief Executive confirmed that the Economy Committee would be included as part of the discussions as to how the council would handle the priorities discussed and that there was opportunity for a Member Briefing or Working Party to be organised if this would be of benefit
Many questions were asked by the Committee in considering this item. It was felt that it was vital for the council or this committee to see the final plan before it was submitted rather than having to accept that it aligned to the council’s vision. Many Councillors wanted to see what the council was bidding for and whether these aligned to Councillors’ visions. A suggestion was made as to whether this could be brought to the Special Meeting of the Committee on 18 July 2022. The Chair highlighted that the meeting on 18 July might not be proceeding but that he could see no reason not to provide Councillors with a copy of the Investment Plan prior to its submission. Upskilling and Job Creation were highlighted as key priorities. A further request was made that the finalised Investment Plan be shared with the Economy Committee if that met prior to the August deadline and if that was not possible that the Plan be circulated to Members of that and this Committee in advance of the submission deadline.
The Group Head of Economy provided reassurance to Members in that the intention of the Plan was to provide notional indication within it as to how much budget would be set aside for each of the three themes. Year 3 of the plan had the most money in it and would be when most activity would occur with the plan giving an indication as to the outputs or outcomes of this work which would align with the council’s corporate priorities and economic development strategy. Years 1 and 2 of the Plan would prepare for this.
Following further discussion and having had the recommendations proposed by Councillor Cooper and seconded by Councillor Roberts,
RESOLVED – That
(1) The outcome of consultation with local partners be noted and it notes how the consultation has been taken into account in preparing the required Investment Plan, the priorities of the Government as set out in the ‘outputs and outcomes’ document and the priorities of this council in determined the content of the Investment Plan;
(2) Delegated authority be given to the Chief Executive in consultation with the Chair of the Policy & Finance Committee to make any changes necessary to improve clarity, understanding and then submit the completed Investment Plan to the Government;
(3) The Committee accepts the UK Shared Prosperity Fund conditional grant from Government; and
(4) The Committee authorises the Chief Executive to process, assess and where appropriate approve applications for funding from local partners in accordance with the details of the approved Investment Plan.