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Highland Councillors Agree updated Delivery Plan for funding received via UK Shared Prosperity Fund

20th August 2023

Members of Highland Council's Economy and Infrastructure Committee (17 August 2023) agreed the updated Delivery Plan following formal notification of funding received through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). The controversial part of this is that funding is much less than it would have been previously if the UK had remained in the EU.

The Committee members also agreed to take forward the proposed skills and training Challenge Fund, highlighted in Appendix 3 of the report presented yesterday. See Item 19 https://www.highland.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/4834/economy_and_infrastructure_committee

Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Ken Gowans, said: "It is pleasing to note that the successful submission of the report for 2022/23 resulted in the release of funding for 2023/24.

"This funding is very significant, and it is important that, as a council, we move at pace to maximise the very real benefits this additional funding will bring.

"We will now work closely with our stakeholders and partners to help and enhance communities across Highland. It is crucial we invest locally to enable people to upskill and develop and the Shared Prosperity Fund will a key enabler to do just that."

Members noted the successful approval of the UKSPF Investment Plan submitted and formal allocation of funding from the UK Government for 2022/23, 2023/24 and indicative allocation for 2024/25.

The funding will help Highland Council bring additional investment to the people of Highland, supporting communities, businesses, employment and tourism. The overarching objective of the UKSPF is to build pride in place and to increase life chances.

The initial Investment Plan was formally submitted by Highland Council back in August 2022.

The Council has received confirmation of £1,461,484 for 2022/23 and £2,465,697 for 2023/24 and an indicative allocation of £5,538,334 for fiscal year 2024/ 25. The 2024/ 25 indicative allocation will be reviewed on submission of reporting requirements detailing progress on spend and confirmed in annual Grant Determinations.

The funding provided is a mix of revenue and capital funds.

The Delivery Plan includes the following benefits to Highland communities. Each of the below examples now have 2022/23 spend allocated to them:

Communities & Place - Placed Based Investments, regeneration and town centre improvements - 22/23 allocated spend of £83K to be utilised alongside current IEE Service, Community Regeneration Fund grant programme and specifically used to support project(s) not otherwise funded by other sources. A Challenge Fund was issued and currently being evaluated, with an excellent range of responses received.

Communities & Place - Active travel enhancements and small-scale transport projects - 22/23 spend of £88K towards Nairn footpath improvements with further commitment planned to support active travel projects across the region. These projects will be in line with Highland Council suite of approved Active Travel Masterplans.

Communities & Place - Relevant feasibility studies - 22/23 allocated spend of £150K to complement Council resources, accelerate delivery of Area Place Plan coverage across Highland. Plans underway for Inverness and Fort William building on successful plan in Skye & Raasay. All areas will be assessed with communities as to priorities and Area Place Plans developed to support community plans and identify potential funding available including the UKSPF.

Supporting Local Business - Development and promotion of the visitor economy - 22/23 allocated spend £200K (£100K Capital and £100K Revenue) to be used as Council's contribution towards Fort William hosting the mountain bike event as part of the UCI World Championships to be held in Scotland in 2023. Future plans will build on outcomes of the Area Place Plans and look towards Community regeneration and other funding sources.

Supporting Local Business - Strengthening local entrepreneurial ecosystems - 22/23 allocated spend on a feasibility study to review the breadth of public, third and private investors active in Highland - to determine whether options exist to better align and co-ordinate investment in businesses.

Supporting Local Business – Expert business advice and support programmes, local and regional – 22/23 allocated spend to extend the provision of start-up, and growth specialist team alongside& specialist advisors which currently deliver the Council's economic recovery Business Start-up and Growth Programme (which was otherwise to end in March 2023).

People and Skills – Employment support for economically inactive people – 22/23 allocated funding of £66K will be linked to the Council's existing work programme of the Employment Team, working in partnership with Highland Employability Partnership (HEP).

People and Skills – Local skills need – 22/23 allocated funding of £200K to be used (with additional HIE funds) to extend the Inverness & Highland City Region Deal Science Skills Academy (SSA) until the end of 2023. This will enable SSA to demonstrate impact and investigate alternative and sustainable funding. The COVID pandemic delayed the timing of the original project.

People and Skills – Green skills courses – 22/23 allocated spend to assist businesses in all sectors transition to Net Zero by establishing relevant training which provides staff & organisations with the knowledge, abilities, values, and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society

Also, in the Delivery Plan there are allocations for Multiply funding which is ring-fenced and has, as a result of launch and award from a Challenge Fund seen 12 organisations providing innovative numeracy training across Highlands sharing a total allocation of £460k, for 22/23 and 23/24.

Multiply beneficiaries:

Lead Scotland Numeracy & Employability Skills Project
Everybody Counts led by Workers' Educational Association
Next Steps – Highlands, led by Enable Scotland
Hope Counts led by Lochaber Hope
Skills for Life led by New Start Highland
Barnardo's Works Multiply
Number Boosterled by Ben Wyvis Primary School Parent Partnership
UHI Inverness Multiply
North Multiply led by UHI North Highland
Counting Matters led by Calman Trust
Highland Festival of Maths: Family Numeracy led by High Life Highland
Multiply West led by UHI West Highland

What is the UK Prosperity fund Scotland?
The Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) forms part of the UK Government's Levelling Up agenda and will commit over £2.6bn funding for local investment across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland by the end of March 2025. The aim of the UK Government SPF is to support the levelling up of all parts of the UK.

Scotland is missing out on more than £300 million in European support under the UK Government's replacement funding programme.

As the first payments are made to local authorities through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, Employment Minister Richard Lochhead said Scotland is suffering from a 60% shortfall in financial help.

The UK Government promised its UK Shared Prosperity Fund would replace in full all EU funding lost to Scotland after Brexit. But it has only allocated £212 million to Scotland over a three-year period, when EU funding would have been worth around £549 million over three years – a shortfall of £337 million.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund sees Scotland allocated £32 million in 2022-2023, £55 million in 2023-24 and £125 million in 2024-25. Even the third year of funding delivers less than Scotland received before the UK's EU Exit.

The Scottish Government has calculated £162 million per year would be needed to replace the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund, increasing to £183 million per year when LEADER funding and the EU Territorial Cooperation Programmes are added in.

Shared Prosperity funding is allocated over three years but delivered as single year payments and any underspend must be returned by local authorities to the UK Government at the end of each year.

EU funding has supported infrastructure projects and community initiatives across the country since the 1970s, with Scotland receiving and delivering more than £6 billion. Transformational projects, such as the University of the Highlands and Islands and the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, have brought significant benefits to businesses and communities.

Projects previously supported by European Territorial Cooperation grants have included a scheme using video technology to help dementia patients stay at home rather than go into residential care, and a scheme developing tools powered by zero emissions hydrogen.

 

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