Ministers may need to pump £4billion extra into some of Britain’s poorest regions to replace EU cash after Brexit , MPs reveal today.
The Government has promised to inject fresh funds to compensate for the loss of Brussels money following the UK’s withdrawal.
A cross-party group of MPs believes the bill will hit £4billion – and fears a shake-up of how British schemes are run could jeopardise the “lifeline”.
The UK-wide shared prosperity fund (SPF) is due to replace EU regional development money from 2021, as promised in the 2017 Conservative manifesto.
Some £1.8billion a year comes from that pot of Brussels’ cash.
But that figure will rocket if, as is being considered, the Government merges the new prosperity fund with the separate local growth fund, which covers only England.
MPs believe “rolling the two funds into one would inevitably create confusion and raise serious doubts about transparency and double-counting”.
There were already fears funding may fall short of the EU’s projected 2021-2027 budget, given three areas of the UK – Lincolnshire, South Yorkshire and Tees Valley and Durham – have fallen into a higher priority category.
That means they would have been due more money in the next allocation than they received between 2014 and 2020.
Details of how the UK scheme will be run will be set out next year at the earliest.
Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who chairs Westminster’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on post-Brexit Funding for Nations, Regions and Local Areas, wants a meeting with the Treasury so MPs can press their case.
Mr Kinnock said: “The EU structural funding has been a lifeline for the least developed parts of the UK.
“The UK shared prosperity fund is set to replace EU funding, but the Government has failed to give any commitments on the level of funding or how the fund will be managed.
“Now we’re told we must wait until 2020.
“The uncertainty has increased concerns that the UK SPF will be used as a political ‘slush fund’ where politicians play pork barrel politics rather than ensure the funds reach the communities who need it most.”
APPG vice-chairwoman Jo Platt, the MP for Leigh, Greater Manchester, added: “After nine years of brutal austerity, EU structural funding has become a key source of investment across the UK – and in post-industrial towns such as Leigh it has become a lifeline.
“Our towns have seen the gradual decline of their voice in Whitehall which is why the APPG is so concerned that their shared prosperity fund proposals could further erode the agency and empowerment that is so essential if our communities are ever going to take back control.”