Levelling Up Locally
It has been five years since Theresa May first promised a United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund (or UKSPF) as one of her key 2017 manifesto pledges. The goal of the UKSPF then was to replace EU structural funding, including the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), in order to support growth, and reduce inequalities across the country. The UKSPF has now, finally, been launched, and the prospectus laying out its delivery structure and strategic goals was published in April.
The UKSPF is set to be active from the current financial year until the 2024-25 financial year. For this period, £2.6 billion has been allocated to the fund—£400 million for 2022-23, £700 million for 2023-24 and £1.5 billion for 2024-25. Additionally, a portion of these allocations, totalling £559 million across the three-year period up to 2024-25, has already been set aside to fund Multiply, the government’s UK-wide adult numeracy programme.
The fund has direct consequences for how upskilling, training, and workforce development will be supported over the next three years: the government has said the three priorities to be addressed by the UKSPF are “communities and place”, “support for local businesses”, and “people and skills.” Each of these priorities is theoretically aligned with three or more of the government’s Levelling Up Missions, which are in essence broad targets for social and infrastructure development to be achieved by 2030. It is worth viewing the Shared Prosperity Fund through the lens of these missions. All three UKSPF priorities are intended to support an improvement in people’s pride in place (especially in local community). In addition, they are expected to help meet objectives such as an increase in Health Life Expectancy (HLE) and well-being, a rise in productivity, pay and employment and, crucially, a rise in the number of people completing skills training.