(A report by Lydia Rusling, Assistant Director for Economic Growth)
Portfolio Holder; Councillor Nigel Welton
1. Subject to Government approval of the Investment Plan, the Investment Plan be supported and recommend the Council acts as the accountable body for UK Shared Prosperity Funding and Rural Prosperity Funding.
2. To authorise the Deputy Chief Executive (Growth) in consultation with the relevant Portfolio Holder to submit an addendum to the UKSPF Investment Plan for Rural Prosperity Funding.
3. Support the Boston Town Deal Board with broadening its membership to encompass appropriate representation from across the Borough and be designated as the Local Partnership Group.
4. To authorise the Deputy Chief Executive (Growth) in consultation with the relevant Portfolio Holders to work collaboratively as the South and East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership on the development of a bidding prospectus, and where appropriate enter into grant funding agreements with delivery partners.
Portfolio Holders and Officer
Cllr Nigel Welton
REASON FOR DECISION
The Assistant Director – Economic Growth, presented a report on the Investment Plan for Boston for UK Shared Prosperity Funding (UKSPF), and outlining the process for the Council to manage the funding as the accountable body and draw down additional funding through the Rural Prosperity Fund.
The report summarised the aims of the funding, the engagement and consultation which had taken place and proposed working collaboratively as the South and East Lincolnshire Councils Partnership and with established bodies to strengthen capacity, maximise match funding and meet the needs of local businesses and communities.
The UKSPF was a central pillar of the UK Government’s Levelling Up Agenda and replaced the European Regional Development fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF). Its primary goal was to build pride in place and increase life chances.
The UKSPF specific aims included:-
· Boost productivity, pay, jobs and living standards by growing the private sector, especially in those places where they were lagging;
· Spread opportunities and improve public services, especially in those places where they were weakest;
· Restore a sense of community, local pride and belonging, especially in those places where they have been lost;
· Empower local leaders and communities, especially in those places lacking local energy.
There were three key investment priorities of; communities and place; supporting local business; and people and skills. The report outlined the aims of each new fund and the Council’s proposed approach through its submission of an Investment Plan and external engagement.
Unlike other funds the UKSPF was not a competitive process, all areas would receive a funding allocation. The total value of the fund was £2.6bn, of which Boston’s allocation was £2.2m. In addition, the Rural England Prosperity fund was integrated with the UKSPF and provided top-up funding to eligible local authorities, Boston has been allocated £0.43m.
The Rural Prosperity Fund supported the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper and the Future Farming Programme and was aimed at capital projects for small businesses and community infrastructure to improve productivity and strengthen the rural economy.
To access the Rural Fund the Council was required to provide specific additional information as an addendum to the Boston UKSPF investment plan.
In order to access the UKSPF fund, it required the formation of a Local Partnership Group of stakeholders and the submission of an Investment Plan which set out the challenges the area faced, along with how the UKSPF would help address those.
Comprehensive and balanced local partnerships were a core component of how the Fund would be administered locally, providing advice on strategic fit and deliverability. It was proposed that the Boston Town Deal Board should be designated as the Local Partnership Group for UKSPF. Its role would be to add comments to the proposed allocation of funding to applicants and to suggest connections and linkages with other local activities and priorities.
The Investment Plan was evidenced led and linked to national and local strategies and policies. Meaningful engagement with stakeholders was required and opportunities for collaboration with other districts were encouraged. A copy of the Investment Plan was attached at Appendix A of the report.
The report set out the background to the consultation process on UKSPF which had been undertaken as part of the wider ‘Have Your Say’ campaign led by the SELCP between 13 and 18 July 2022.
The top three suggestions resulting from the consultation were:
· Invest in tidying up Boston town;
· Help for small businesses and market stalls to boost the town;
· Provision of activities in the area for all age groups.
Across the consultation for the sub-region key themes were identified:
· Business ideas linked to health and well-being, food production, tourism, culture and the arts, transport, environmental businesses and the digital sector
· Social enterprises, i.e. businesses which have a social purpose and make a profit in a way that directly benefits society
· Projects on the Lincolnshire Coast which help more people between 16-64 to become economically active
· Projects which bring imaginative new activities and adapt buildings to breathe new life into town centres
· Programmes for smaller places which will improve and widen the use of community buildings including village halls
· Projects which increase the availability of decent broadband connectivity in rural places
In addition to the public consultation, stakeholder engagement workshops had been held with potential delivery partners for the three funding themes of skills, business and place. It was proposed to form expert clusters from established bodies, who had a track record of delivering against those themes, to support with writing the bidding prospectus for each theme, the proposed timeframe was for completion by early November and bids invited for the first bidding round before Christmas. The groups would also assist in evaluating bids, particularly looking at how they could bring match funding and encourage individual bids to align with other activities and projects to reduce duplication and improve outcomes.
The recommendations from each bidding round would be reported to the Local Partnership Group (Boston Town Deal Board). The Council’s Cabinet would have the final decision, subject to further delegation to officers in consultation with relevant portfolio holders.
Whilst keeping a focus on the three funding pots for each local authority, the SELCP would consider applications to all three areas as a whole through an integrated approach rather than running individual systems. The proposed approach was set out in a presentation at Appendix B of the report.
The report had been considered by the Corporate and Community Committee at its meeting on 27 October 2022, and the recommendations supported.
Committee were asked by the Deputy Chief Executive – Growth to consider a fifth recommendation. There had been an anticipation that the funding launched earlier in the year would have been received by October but it had been delayed and it was not expected to be in the account by the end of this calendar year. Because the amount was below £500k it sat within the Cabinets Authority to be able to be able to allocate funding and allocate a budget to it The reason for proposing this additional recommendation was because if approved, it would mean moving forward that there would be no need to return a further report to committee, seeking agreement to creation of a budget. Members were reassured that the creation of the budget would not mean spending any of the money before it was received into the account. It would however, mean officers could start the process as set out within the report and provide a better opportunity of getting the money into the communities within the year. The risk of delay in not having the budget allocated and agreed now and having to come back for another decision would impact on the practicalities of the budget.
OTHER OPTIONS OR ALTERNATIVES CONSIDERED
RECORD OF ANY CONFLICT OF INTEREST
RECORD OF ANY DISPENSATION GRANTED