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Levelling-up and Shared Prosperity Funds

Volume 697: debated on Monday 14 June 2021

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the (a) levelling-up fund and (b) UK shared prosperity fund. (901085)

The levelling-up fund and the UK shared prosperity fund are core parts of our levelling-up agenda. I regularly speak to my ministerial colleagues about both funds, and those discussions will inform our levelling-up White Paper and the UK shared prosperity fund investment framework, which we plan to publish later this year.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Like many other Members, I have been involved in discussions with my local authority regarding the levelling-up fund; however, it occurred to me last week that there was something of a democratic deficit in the process. Given that the fund can be used in a number of policy areas that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, why is there no mechanism for councils to formally consult their Scottish Parliament representatives on the issues? Will the Minister advise what his Government are doing to ensure that projects associated with the fund are realised with as much collaboration as possible with the democratically elected Government of the people of Scotland?

The hon. Gentleman is clearly working hard on his bid for the levelling-up fund. There is absolutely nothing at all to stop his council consulting with or speaking to the Scottish Government before it submits its bid; it is absolutely welcome to do that. At the heart of these funds is localism. It is about local authorities and communities working directly with the UK Government and building that strong relationship with communities in Scotland, which we think is a key part of this process. We are investing billions of pounds and want to work closely with his community. I absolutely encourage his council to engage with the relevant Government.

While the Minister claps himself on the back at the munificence of these various funds that he is talking about, he may wish to reflect on the fact that there is not one new penny of money available, so let us not pretend.

The EU structural funding allocations in the devolved nations and the spending in the areas covered by the levelling-up funding and the strategic priorities fund previously had the direct involvement of Ministers from the devolved nations. How can the Minister now justify cynically insisting on a centralised Whitehall-led approach, cutting out the directly elected Governments of the devolved nations from spending decisions in their own countries in devolved areas of responsibility?

I must point out this continued factual inaccuracy. There is new money going in this year through the UK community renewal fund. Some £220 million is being invested to trial new priorities and projects ahead of the introduction of the UKSPF. As I just said to the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Martin Docherty-Hughes), the local authorities in Scotland are absolutely able to consult with the devolved Administrations. We will be speaking to the devolved Administrations at the shortlisting stage of the bids to seek their advice and to see whether the bids conflict with anything that they are delivering, or with any of their policies. We are investing billions of pounds in these projects: in infrastructure; in community renewal; in transport; in regeneration; and in high-street refurbishments. This is something that the nationalists should be welcoming, rather than trying to find unfair grievances.

The Public Accounts Committee delivered a damning verdict on the towns fund, saying that the Minister’s Department had

“not been open about the process it followed and would not disclose the reasoning for selecting or excluding towns”—

for funding. In view of that, what specific measures will the Minister announce today to ensure that the distribution of the levelling-up fund and shared prosperity fund will be both transparent and free from political bias, unlike the towns fund?

The answer to that is that it is all published on and it has been for months now. Clearly, the nationalists cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that this Conservative Government are supporting communities in Scotland that they have let down for so many years. We are investing billions of pounds in people, infrastructure, regeneration, transport, and high street refurbishments. We are delivering on the ground, building new relationships and binding together our precious Union.