POWYS County Council leader, Rosemarie Harris is happy to receive UK Government grant funding to make up for Powys losing out on European Union structural funds in the past.
Cllr Harris was one of four Welsh Council bosses who took part in a Welsh Affairs select committee session on Thursday, May 27.
They topic under discussion was the roll out of the UK’s Government’s Community Renewal Fund, which is seen as a replacement for European grant funding.
Applications for this fund need to be backed by local MP’s and submitted to Westminster by June 18.
The money needs to be used by March 31, 2022.
Former Welsh Secretary, Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) who chaired the session, asked the council leaders on what they thought of the fund and process?
Cllr Harris said: “In the past we haven’t benefited as much as other parts of Wales from EU structural funding, we just had a small amount so in that sense we’re extremely grateful for this.
“I would have liked a longer lead-in time, for forward planning.
“When there is such time pressure to get the bids in, there is a risk that we will have to back projects that perhaps wouldn’t have been the priority.
“I’d like it if the UK Government talked to council leaders, and also clarity on any future cross border projects.”
She added it would be acceptable if these talks went through the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Association).
Beth Winter MP (Cynon Valley) asked whether the funds were being sent to the right areas, to deal with deprivation?
Cllr Harris said: “There is hidden poverty in a rural area, Powys has one of the lowest GVA’s (Gross Value Added) in Wales and the UK.”
Cllr Harris explained that access to services also need to be considered such as having to go outside Powys for healthcare and that there are no universities in the county.
Cllr Harris said: “There’s also an extreme cost in providing services across big rural areas which has not been recognised in the past.
Geraint Davies MP (Swansea West) asked what the leaders thought of the switch of money being provided by the UK Government instead than the Welsh Government?
Other council leaders stressed the need to work in partnership with the Welsh Government and that a coordinated approach was needed.
Cllr Harris said: “I’m happy to work with the UK Government and I think we need to work as a family of council leaders to know what we’re all doing.
“I’m happy to receive funding, full stop.”
Ben Lake MP (Ceredigion) asked if the UK Government had explained and discussed the fund with councils?
Cllr Harris, said: “We’ve repeatedly asked for more information, and we’re still asking.”
The UK Government explained that this is the precursor to a bigger pot of funding.
They say: “We are starting work now, with the UK Community Renewal Fund being provided for 2021-22 – an additional £220 million of investment.
“This will help support local areas to pilot imaginative new approaches and programmes that unleash their potential, instil pride, and prepare them to take full advantage of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund when it launches in 2022.
“Investment from EU Structural Funds will continue to be spent by local areas until 2023 and this government has committed to at least matching EU receipts through the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund, on average reaching around £1.5 billion a year.
“This new fund, to be launched in 2022, will operate throughout the UK and play a part in uniting and levelling up the whole country.”