Welsh government refuses to back UK funding allocations to Wales in tit-for-tat row

The Welsh government refused to offer technical support when the UK government started allocating ex-EU funds to Wales. It is part of a long-running dispute between Mark Drakeford’s Cardiff Bay administration and the UK government led by Boris Johnson. Although it can get a little complex, it will have a real impact on Wales and the people who live there, so it’s worth understanding what exactly is going on.

Wales was receiving huge sums of money from the EU before Brexit. This funding is often very long-term and, despite his departure, Wales continues to receive EU funds. However, that ends now.

As part of their campaign for the 2019 general election, the Tories promised Wales would get “not a penny less” as a result of Brexit. Many people took this to mean that the Welsh government would have a role to play in allocating this money (as it has done for 22 years as part of the EU). However, the UK government has now confirmed that it will allocate these funds through its new Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF).

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In response, Welsh Government Economics Minister Vaughan Gething wrote to the UK Government. Following the letter, he said: ‘I share our disappointment that the Welsh Government has had only two weeks of real discussions on the matter as we try to engage with the UK Government over several years to share our points of view. view of a model developed with Welsh partners and the OECD on how EU replacement funds should be spent in Wales

“During this short window, while we have found common ground, such as the importance for local authorities to align investment plans with our regional investment framework in Wales, we have not In the end, we were unable to agree on the following:

  • “The UK Government’s failure to deliver on repeated promises to fully replace EU funds for Wales, which means an overall shortfall of over £1.1 billion (taking into account the loss of structural and rural finance and inflation) by March 2025;
  • “The UK Government’s use of the UK Internal Market Act to forcibly take decisions in devolved areas and exclude the Welsh Government from a transparent joint decision-making process for the FPS while circumventing the control of the Senedd;
  • “The Prospectus Methodology for Financial Allowances in Wales, which distributes money away from areas where poverty is most concentrated.”

He went on to say: “I have therefore confirmed in writing to the UK Government that the Welsh Government is unable to endorse the approach which the UK Government is taking on the SPF. This means, as we have always told the UK Government, that the Welsh Government will not deploy our own resources to implement UK Government programs in Wales which we consider to be flawed and undermining the Devolution Regulation.”

So what does “will not deploy our own resources to implement UK Government programs” really mean?

The Welsh Government has been responsible for assessing the merits of projects in Wales likely to receive EU funds for more than two decades. This means they have experienced teams of people who the Welsh Government believe are well placed to know what is needed in certain parts of Wales. The Welsh government claims that control of this money minimizes the duplication of projects, which would not be the case if the Welsh and UK governments handed out money.

Under the SPF, individual councils will be able to apply for funding and will often be in competition with each other. The UK government is currently in the process of hiring civil servants to assess the merits of these applications and wants the Welsh government to use its existing pool of experienced staff to help. That’s what the Welsh government refuses to do when it says it ‘will not deploy its own resources’.

How did we get here ?

The Welsh Government has been trying to get clarification on this for two years. A Welsh Government source said they had consistently written to the UK Government’s Department of Levelling, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) which deals with the SPF, but many of their letters “went unanswered”. Mr. Gething stressed in his statement that there had been cooperation between the two administrations on issues such as free ports.

What did the British government say?

When WalesOnline approached the UK Government about Welsh Governments, a DLUHC spokesperson said: ‘Our UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) matches previous EU funding in Wales – it gives local people the control of how UK money is spent, removes unnecessary bureaucracy and enables local communities to invest in the priorities that matter to them.

“We have designed the fund to give local people direct control of the money and have allocated funds to councils across Wales to ensure that the places most in need receive the research they need. need. The UK government does not provide the UKSPF in Wales. The fund will be distributed by local councils, working closely with local partners, and planning is well underway. We regularly engage with our Welsh Government counterparts to support the delivery of the fund. They also added that they would respond to the letter from the Welsh Government in due course.

James V. Hayes