Brexit: Councils in Wales to have stronger role in replacement aid scheme

Brexit: Councils in Wales to have stronger role in replacement aid scheme

Local councils will have a “stronger role” in the new fund to replace EU aid, the Welsh secretary has said.

Simon Hart said councils were “elected and accountable bodies that operate closest to the communities they serve”.

Details of the fund are expected to be announced by UK ministers after the chancellor’s spending review next week.

The Welsh Government said it should control the fund, not UK ministers, but it also promises to give local authorities a bigger say.

Ministers in Cardiff and London have been arguing over who should ultimately control the purse strings of the Wales portion of the new shared prosperity fund (SPF).

EU funds in Wales have been administered by the Welsh European Funding Office, part of the Welsh Government.

Labour ministers in Wales have published their own proposals for how the new fund should be spent.

They said the UK government should set a “policy agenda”, similar to the way the EU does.

But they argue it should then allocate funding “in full” to Cardiff, giving the Welsh Government “full autonomy over its SPF share on a multi-annual basis”.

However, it seems both the UK and Welsh governments are agreed that local authorities should be much more involved in the process.

Welsh ministers say they “envisage a central role for local authorities”.

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Hart said he saw “a stronger role for local councils, elected and accountable bodies that operate closest to the communities they serve”.

“Of course – this is how the funding should have been operating all along, but the opposite has been the case,” he writes.

Mr Hart said leaving the EU “gives us a once in a generation opportunity to click the restart button on how billions of pounds are spent across Wales”.

“In the past week I’ve been meeting local authorities across Wales.

“They’re all hungry to play a greater role in smarter investment of this funding – distributing it to those best able to target the money to projects that will benefit their communities most.

“I remain hopeful that the Welsh Government will take a collaborative approach, putting principles ahead of politics.”

Legislation going through the UK Parliament would give Whitehall new powers to spend in devolved areas such as economic development.

Running for the Tory leadership in 2019, Boris Johnson said he wanted to see a “strong Conservative influence” over spending after Brexit.

But First Minister Mark Drakeford has warned any attempt to centralise control over funding to London would be an “attack on devolution”.

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