The Committee considered a report of the Corporate Director of Regeneration, Economy and Growth which provided an update on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), setting out details of the UKSPF Investment Plan for County Durham. The report further included an update on the Multiply, and adult numeracy programme funded through the UKSPF, and the new Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) (for copy see file of Minutes).
The Head of Economic Development explained that County Durham had a UKSPF allocation of £30,830,613 and a Multiply allocation of £2,803,077, over the next three financial years (2022/23 to 2024/25), Durham County Council had been identified as the lead authority to deliver the funds. He went on to explain that in order to unlock those funds, the council was required to produce and submit a high-level UKSPF Investment plan to government by 1 August 2022. For the Multiply allocation a separate Investment plan was submitted by 30 June 2022.
The Funding and Programmes Manager then went on to provide further detail of how the funding was allocated. She explained that the overarching aim of UKSPF was to build ‘pride in place and increase life chances’ through three core investment priorities: Local Communities and Place, Supporting Local Business and People and Skills (including Multiply, a new programme aimed at addressing low level adult numeracy).
To inform the development of the Investment Plan several guiding principles were agreed including a focus on a limited number of high-level interventions and outcomes that enable County Durham to maximise flexibility, as well as adopting a more holistic approach to delivery over the funding period. It was also recognised that the challenges and opportunities faced by Durham’s residents, businesses and communities could not be addressed by a single intervention in isolation, and an integrated response was required. In addition, the specific UKSPF Interventions chosen to address the challenges and opportunities under the Fund’s three Investment Priorities, Communities and Place, Supporting Local Business and People and Skills were set out within Appendix 3 of the report.
She went on to advise that government approved the UKSPF 2 weeks prior and a pipeline of activity including producing an implementation plan was being undertaken. Further information was also provided regarding Multiply and its rationale, to improve numeracy skills with a longer-term goal of individuals having higher levels of income and wellbeing and producing a positive impact on economic productivity.
Moving on the Funding and Programmes Manager provided some detail surrounding the Rural England Prosperity Fund. This fund is aligned to the UK SPF and is seen as a rural top up fund and will provide capital grants to support activities that address challenges that rural businesses and communities face. County Durham has been allocated £3,500,000.
The committee was informed that the County Council as lead authority will be the accountable body for these funds and will be responsible for the ongoing management of the allocation, including assessing and approving applications, processing payments and day to day monitoring. The Funding and Programmes Manager continued that as the guidance required the establishment of a partnership to guide and advise on the delivery of the UKSPF funds, the existing County Durham Economic Partnership (CDEP) was broadened to incorporate wider representation, reflecting the nature of the Fund. The partnership has helped to develop the investment Plans and will have an ongoing role in the fund’s governance arrangements.
Mrs R Morris, Co-optee asked whether a copy of the Investment Plan was available to be shared with the members of the committee. She added that she was slightly disappointed that she didn’t see anything new in this report and thought that the funding would be linked with the IES in relation to priorities however she could not see a link and felt that science and technology should be recognised. In addition, she felt that this was a huge amount of work and responsibility for the CDEP to take on and asked what, if any, additional support would be available to them.
The Chair commented that in relation to the Delivery Plan there will need to be a performance element in relation to those receiving funding.
The Funding and Programmes Manager advised that ultimately Durham County Council were the accountable body for administering funding. A reporting framework would be in place for quarterly feedback to be provided to government on progress.
She further commented in relation to points made about innovation, that there was to be an accelerated programme supporting innovating technologies and the delivery of this aspect of work would come forward as a result of the UKSPF. The Head of Economic Development commented that this was a tool; to help the county deliver and develop a framework as to where to invest in priority sectors for growth.
The Head of Economic Development commented that SPF is a funding source and that the IES includes the sectors mentioned above and that it would be ensured that the link is there between the priorities in the IES and funding.
Cllr Moist commented that open calls often lack direction and asked whether DCC would be able to give direction.
Councillor Surtees added that she felt that the level of funding to be received in County Durham was insulting. The plan for delivery was confusing and that the social fabric of our neighbourhoods was key. She asked whether a breakdown could be provided regarding the UK investment plan noting that figures contained in Communities and Place were very different, with data provided from the Econ-versation in her opinion extremely poor. She added that the community spirit was dying and that she found it difficult to find any positives, there is nothing in the report to suggest this will change, people are disillusioned and Durham County Council does not have the money that it needs to make a difference across the county.
The Head of Economic Development confirmed that the bid had just been agreed and that DCC needs to ensure that bid allocations achieve the priorities identified in the IES. DCC will also be supporting people to develop bids. He continued that the rural allocation is a relatively small amount for the rural nature of the county and highlighted that we will need to use all tools available to deliver the IES.
i) That the content of the report be noted.
ii) That the EE OSC receive further reports as the programme continues to be implemented over the life of the programme (currently 2022/23- 2024/25).