Michael Gove urged to bring Treasury chequebook on South Yorkshire visit as Dan Jarvis seeks £900m

Details of whether South Yorkshire is in line to receive £900m in post-Brexit funding to match what the area would have received from the EU will be revealed later this month, Michael Gove has said.

Responding to a question from Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis about the UK Shared Prosperity Fund which is the central replacement for EU regeneration funding, Levelling Up Secretary Mr Gove said details should become clearer in Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement. The statement is taking place on March 23.

In his role as South Yorkshire Mayor, Mr Jarvis has previously called for the Government to deliver on its pledge to match EU funds for less developed communities through its Shared Prosperity Fund. He said that would equal £900m investment over seven years.

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Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Mr Jarvis asked for an update on the funding for South Yorkshire following the Government’s commitment to match fund in Cornwall.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove speaking in Parliament.Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove speaking in Parliament.
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove speaking in Parliament.

Mr Jarvis said Mr Gove is due to visit South Yorkshire soon and will receive a particularly warm welcome “if he brings the Treasury chequebook with him”.

Mr Gove said in response: “He is absolutely right: we need to make sure that the replacements for EU funding are distributed equitably and efficiently across the country. I completely understand the desire that he and others in South Yorkshire have to see that money out of the door as quickly as possible and in communities making a difference.

"We will be updating the House on our progress towards ensuring that that money is available along the timeline of the Spring Statement..”

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Mr Gove also told Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney that a similar announcement about the next round of Levelling Up Fund bids will be shared when

Mr Sunak makes his Spring Statement later this month.

During the same Parliamentary session, Mr Gove also backed a call from a senior Yorkshire MP for mayors and local councils to be given greater control of Government spending.

When asked in Parliament by Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts, who is chairman of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, whether he would favour such an approach to replace the current “disjointed” approach, Mr Gove gave a two-word answer: “I do.”

Mr Betts said that if the Government wanted to deliver on the ambitions to tackle regional inequality it has set out in last month’s Levelling Up White Paper, it must devolve spending powers to a more local level and rethink the current system of providing funding to authorities, which often involves competitive bidding.

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He said: “The Government’s White Paper is rightly ambitious and I think there would be general support for that ambition across this House.

“Rightly so, because we have one of the most unequal economies and societies amongst any developed countries.

“Isn’t the Secretary of State slightly concerned however that the tools he’s got at his disposal to address this are actually a small number of separate spending pots, completely disjointed and unconnected, and distributed according to a completely inappropriate bidding process?

“Doesn’t the Secretary of State really want to see a review of total Government spending, where it is spent in the country, and then the allocation and more control over that to local councils and local mayors so it can be spent in the interests of local communities?”

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The Levelling Up White Paper set out plans for further devolution deals across England and the creation of more mayoral posts as part of that process.

The exchange between Mr Betts and Mr Gove during questions for the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Department which is led by the latter man followed Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree, Paula Barker, highlighting the funding cuts experienced by local councils over the past decade.

She said: “Local government finance has been ravaged over the last decade under the mantra of austerity.

“Councils in the North have lost up to 50 per cent of their core funding and for some even more.

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“When will his (Michael Gove’s) department drop the spin on local government finance and genuinely improve council core spending powers, that factor in inflation and National Insurance increases that see our cash-strapped local authorities picking up the tab for?”

Minister for Levelling Up Communities Kemi Badenoch said that the reason that cutbacks had been required at local authorities was due to the state of the public finances when the Conservatives alongside the Liberal Democrats took power from Labour.

“Labour members continue to talk about losses in funding, but they forget to remind everyone how we arrived at that position in the first place,” she said.

“That was because of their disgraceful management of public finances. We have spent the last 10 years repairing public finances and that is why we have been able to give the cash increase and real-terms increase that will be supporting all Labour councils going forward.”

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Levelling up in doubt as £1bn a year cut from post-Brexit regional funding, MPs ...

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