Plans to invest £1.9 million to further strengthen the West Suffolk economy, improve job opportunities, town centres and rural areas as well as support community groups – will be sent to the government.
West Suffolk Council agreed the investment plan for the area’s £1.9 million share of the government’s £2.6 billion Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) should be sent to Westminster.
The new national funding is designed by government to support the implementation of its Levelling Up White Paper as well as “to build pride in place and increase life chances across the UK”. It is also a successor to EU Structural Funds now that the UK has left the European Union.
West Suffolk with other authorities in the county has had to meet the government’s rules and a tight timeline so communities and businesses will benefit from this funding.
In order to “unlock” West Suffolk’s allocation of £1,934,467 over three years, the government requires authorities to submit an investment plan by August1, 2022.
The investment plan was agreed by council at its meeting on Tuesday, July 26. It sets out how the money will, over the next three years, be allocated against the three investment priorities set by government of:
• communities and place;
• supporting local business;
• people and skills (year 2024-25 only).
Any initiatives must also meet one or more of 41 “interventions” that the government has also identified.
If successful West Suffolk Council’s allocation would break down to:
Year One – £235,858 – must be spent by March 31, 2023;
Year Two – £471,715 – must be spent by March 31, 2024;
Year Three – £1,235,894 – must be spent by March 31, 2025.
In order to reach this point the council has also engaged with a group of government prescribed local stakeholders.
The council completed an initial engagement process as stipulated in the funding criteria, with a group of stakeholders that included community groups, business representatives, MPs, and local authorities. Their input has helped shape the areas of investment and will continue to play a part in the delivery of initiatives.
The engagement has helped set the priorities together with the government criteria, data about the needs of West Suffolk, the council’s existing strategic priorities and information about what was previously funded through EU funds.
Advice or support will be given to stakeholders to move forward proposals for the funding which do not meet the criteria set for the fund or are a lesser priority than others.
John Griffiths, the leader of West Suffolk Council, said: “I am pleased that we are able to seize this opportunity for West Suffolk to secure new government funding to further help our communities and businesses. While this money is very welcome it is in addition to the millions of pounds we invest as a council or attract from other partners to improve the wellbeing, prosperity, and environment of West Suffolk.
“As ever, there are many hurdles to follow the guidance and rules set by government, but we are confident we have a good investment plan that will evolve over the next three years. I want to thank the various groups, parish and town councils, individuals, and MPs that we have engaged with and who have given an invaluable locally focused perspective to help set the priorities. I look forward to working with them and others to deliver these initiatives here in West Suffolk as soon as possible.”