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Shared Prosperity Fund

Volume 703: debated on Wednesday 17 November 2021

9. What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister of Wales on the shared prosperity fund. (904166)

11. What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister of Wales on the shared prosperity fund. (904168)

Mr Speaker, the answer will be worth waiting for, I promise you.

I am hoping to meet the First Minister with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in Cardiff later this week to discuss how we can best support jobs and economic growth in Wales, including through the various initiatives announced at the autumn Budget.

I am glad that the Secretary of State is with us and awake; that is always nice to see.

Let me return to the shared prosperity fund, rather than levelling up, because the Secretary of State did not actually answer my question. We have seen months and years of dither and delay, and today we have heard questions from the hon. Member for Wrexham (Sarah Atherton) and the right hon. Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones) about when the shared prosperity fund will be delivered and when we will have dates for local authorities so that they can plan. Will the Secretary of State simply set out when the shared prosperity fund will be confirmed, when the dates for bidding will take place and when local government will get the information it needs in order to bid for this long overdue funding?

In my conversations with 22 local authorities, they take a much more benign approach to the funding streams than the hon. Gentleman. He obsesses about the UK shared prosperity fund. We have been clear about when that is coming through, with further announcements this year and into next. He deliberately ignores the levelling-up fund, the community renewal fund, the community ownership fund and all the other funds that have been such a success in Wales. I say to him what I said to the hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith): it would be a whole lot better for future investors and job creation if he spent a little more time championing Wales and a little less time criticising it.

Well, the Secretary of State dodged that question, just as he dodged Question 1. He knows that there is a real dearth of information on the Government’s shared prosperity fund, which needy communities across Wales desperately want. The same communities drove real change with the European social fund—probably a better levelling-up fund than the Government could ever deliver. This is the Secretary of State’s second chance: when are we going to get the detail and the dates, so that in Wales and across the rest of the country we can get on with planning to spend the shared prosperity fund?

I have repeated the answer to this question on countless occasions this morning. We are looking at a whole range of funding provisions in Wales. The Chancellor was able to provide a record settlement; this is the best settlement for the Welsh Government and local authorities for 20-plus years, and the hon. Gentleman should be acknowledging that.

We have actually stuck to the timescales that we have set out on numerous occasions in Welsh and other questions. The hon. Gentleman really does need to change the record. We are now witnessing record sums of money going into parts of Wales which never even qualified before; that is something that we should be championing, rather than denigrating.