On February 2nd, along with the White Paper on Levelling Up, the Government also provided pre-launch Guidance for UK-SPF.
This document gives plenty of information about how it is intended to work and further detail is due to be published in the Spring.
What is pleasing to see is that the team developing the UK-SPF seem to have taken onboard much of the feedback that VONNE and others have put forward, learning from what has and hasn’t worked well with the EU Structural Funds including ERDF and ESF and also feedback on the UK Community Renewal Fund process which happened in 2021 as the pilot for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
The overall consensus is that there is much to be happy about with what is being proposed but we need to be clear that VCSE organisations need to take up the opportunity to get more involved strategically with their local authority or combined authority as soon as possible.
These Lead Authorities will be receiving local capacity building funding to:
- support partnership working, involving all sectors, and the development of local programmes.
- develop a local plan on which themes they wish to address and how within the indicative allocation given to their area by Government.
The initial focus is more on two of the three themes for now (place and local enterprises), with third (people) strengthening later, once existing European Social Fund programme and projects tail off.
Some headlines from the UK-SPF Pre-launch Guidance document:
- The funding will not be allocated via a competitive process, unlike the UK Community Renewal Fund which was competitive at a local and then national level.
- Instead, this Spring, each area (Combined Authority or other Local Authority) will be allocated an indicative amount by the government.
- Local and Combined Authorities ought to be starting now to involve local partners to start preparing a Plan for their area under the three headings (Place, People, Enterprises). The VCSE Sector should be properly involved so that we can discuss how the plan fits together strategically, tackle local problems, are based on our experience of delivery, and are innovative and flexible to respond to circumstances. This is an opportunity to access a substantial new fund to work in partnership to deliver local change.
- This is not the European Social Fund - it is a new UK Fund, so it’s not just about delivering training courses. It’s about delivering a range of local strategic actions to tackle long standing local problems, so is likely to involve Social Risk Capital, Social Enterprises and the Social Economy, as well as tackling poverty and focussing on wellbeing.
- It is both revenue and capital.
- Although the document says little about equality and diversification, or about tackling the climate emergency, that could be built into local Plans.
- In the Summer, the lead local authorities will each submit their plan to the UK Government, with outcomes and expected indicators, showing what they would deliver using their indicative amount. The Government then decides whether or not to fund the full allocation.
- Then it is up to the Lead Authorities either at a local or combined authority level. They will decide how they want to commission activities (or if they intend to deliver some actions in house, using their own staff). They will pay out the money, and will measure what is delivered.
- Some of the funding can be used by the lead authorities for technical assistance (capacity building) to support development of the plan and working in partnership to have a coherent and strategic local approach. We would expect part of this to support the VCSE sector directly, rather than wholly staying with the lead authorities.
- Although it says cross border working is welcomed, we’re not sure what resources will encourage this.
A prospectus is intended to be available in the Spring, which will go into much more detail.
In the North East VONNE has already facilitated conversations with some Combined and Local Authorities about how, in partnership with Local Infrastructure Organisations, we can work with them to engage the VCSE sector in developing local UK-SPF plans. The lead authorities in the North East will be Tees Valley Combined Authority, North of Tyne Combined Authority and Gateshead, Sunderland, Durham and South Tyneside local authorities.
Now that more guidance has been published, we will be ramping up these activities in future weeks and months and will share opportunities for organisations to get involved via future editions of the VONNE News bulletin.