MINISTERS from across the devolved governments have joined together to outline their concerns about the UK Government bypassing Devolved Governments and existing structures to allocate replacement EU funds.
Following a tri-lateral meeting, Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans, Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister, Conor Murphy and Scottish Minister for Trade, Innovation and Public Finance, Ivan McKee have issued a joint statement calling on the UK Government to enter into meaningful engagement and respect the devolved arrangements.
The joint statement reads:
“As Ministers in the Devolved Governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, we wish to register our shared concerns about the UK Government’s decision to bypass democratically agreed devolution arrangements to deliver the Levelling Up and Community Renewal Funds announced at Budget 2021.
“We share the aim to spread inclusive economic growth more widely and take the opportunity to simplify systems post EU exit. For that reason, we believe monies to replace EU funds should be allocated in full through the Devolved Governments and successful structures that already exist specifically to deliver economic development to address the needs and opportunities of the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland rather than through a new, separate layer of bureaucracy.
“The UK Government ignored the Devolved Governments’ efforts and requests to input to the development process for these funds for almost three years and is now using powers under the UK Internal Market Act to bypass us completely. It is ignoring our respective devolution arrangements, delivering funding to meet Whitehall’s priorities rather than those of the people of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“This must be addressed before further policy development takes place on the Shared Prosperity Fund. Denying us any meaningful input, harms the effectiveness of these funds, will duplicate resources, and risks value for money and the achievement of better, fairer outcomes, which our communities and people deserve.
“The support announced through these funds is not new money. This funding has sat with our respective governments since powers in this area were devolved. Now, bidding for an unidentified share of a UK pot through a competitive process provides no guarantee of success. With decisions being made entirely by the UK Government, this falls far short of commitments made during the EU referendum for all these powers to be fully devolved after EU-exit.
“Going forward, we need more than simply a commitment from UK Ministers that the Devolved Governments will be engaged in the development of the Shared Prosperity Fund. We need a clear plan of how and when this will happen and we require consultation and input into the proposed role of the Devolved Governments so that the most vulnerable in our societies are protected and that jobs and prosperity are achieved in a way that is fairer, more inclusive and sustainable for all our citizens.
“We will jointly be seeking an urgent meeting with Treasury to raise these important matters.”