The Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) is a cornerstone of the Government’s ‘Levelling-Up’ agenda. The idea of levelling up is that people in all parts of the UK should have the same opportunities, regardless of where they live.
The SPF is designed to replace EU funding that we could have expected to receive had we not Brexited in 2020. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been allocated £132 million over three years. This is the highest allocation outside of Greater London and reflects the needs of our economy.
Plans for how the money should be spent have recently been approved by Cornwall Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly. They focus on three key investment priorities: communities and place; supporting local business; and people and skills.
In Cornwall and Scilly that is being translated into an exciting and ambitious ‘Good Growth’ investment plan that will move us towards net zero, boost the ‘green economy’, provide better paid jobs and improve life chances across our area.
A key focus will be to speed up the growth of high value and higher wage sectors such as renewable energy, technology, metals, and digital and creative industries. We want to lead the UK’s green industrial revolution by putting our unique renewable energy resources, tech metals and space and data capabilities at the heart of the UK’s economic future.
And we want to make full use of the increased flexibilities SPF funding gives us when compared with previous rounds of funding. This will include targeted investment in developing our labour market and a higher skilled workforce that can support and grow emerging sectors.
The Good Growth investment plan takes on board a number of existing economic growth blueprints, including the Local Enterprise Partnership’s own Local Industrial Strategy, with its focus on those emerging high value sectors mentioned above.
This is critical because those industries will create the well-paid jobs of the future, and that in turn can help deliver the economic growth we need to start closing the inequality gap between communities across Cornwall and Scilly. The immediacy of the cost of living crisis is acute, but let’s not lose sight of the future.
SPF funding will also help change behaviours. All SPF-funded projects will have to demonstrate how they contribute towards a net zero economy. They must create jobs that pay at least the Real Living Wage (a bare minimum) and avoid the use of zero hour or minimum hour contracts. And they must provide equality of outcomes and ensure nature recovery.
To focus local delivery of the SPF across Cornwall and Scilly, the plan is to create an Economic Prosperity Board. This will be made up of local elected councillors from Cornwall Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly.
In line with Government guidance about how the funding should be managed, there will also be an SPF Partnership Group including business, community, voluntary and MP representation. Its role will be to provide advice on strategic fit and deliverability and will be a vital conduit to a wide range of sector groups and other stakeholders.
Further details of how the funding will be allocated across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and how organisations and community groups can apply for funding will be announced later this month. Bids will be invited against the following themes in the first year, with £45 million available:
- Cultural events and talent programme (£4.4m)
- Culture/heritage regeneration programme and related skills and training activity (£10.82m)
- Community hubs and community skills hubs (£5.198m)
- Digital connectivity and inclusion (£1.5m)
- Business, research and development and enterprise infrastructure (£18.7m)
- Town, rural and coastal retail development and related skills programme (£4.4m)
- Multiply adult numeracy programme (£0.496m)
There will be assistance available for businesses and organisations to apply for these funds. Due to timescales for spending in the first year, there will be a short deadline for project applications but there will be further opportunities for applications in 2023/24.
All opportunities for funding will be made available on the new SPF portal ciosgoodgrowth.com.
Mark Duddridge is chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.