This paper provides an overview of the Rural England Prosperity Fund, the timescales and the suggested process for taking this forward.
In order to obtain grant from this funding source the Council is obliged to submit an application. The Fund is non-competitive and secures significant investment into the District. Failure to submit a compliant plan would miss a key funding opportunity.
The Rural England Prosperity Fund provides greater powers than under the previous EU funded models to support rural businesses and communities. At this stage Local Authorities do not need to provide detailed specifics as to how the fund will operate. However, the Council will need to submit an application to the Government (by 30 November 2022) which outlines the local rural challenges and the suggested interventions that need to be made to support them.
1.To note the contents of the report.
2.To endorse the process for developing the REPF Addendum to the UKSF. It is proposed that this follows the same principles and processes that were adopted to develop the UKSPF Investment Plan and will be led by the Economic Growth Manager and Assistant Director for Sustainable Growth, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Sustainable Growth. An established Local Partnership Group, composed of a variety of key local stakeholders, is already in place and will help to inform and shape the final submission. However, given that this fund is more rural focussed, there is likely to be value in inviting additional stakeholders representing aspects of the rural economy.
This fund will help the Council in its delivery of the Corporate Plan objectives of ‘Boosting Business Sustainability and Growth’ and ‘Quality of Life’.
LIST OF BACKGROUND PAPERS AS REQUIRED BY LAW
(Papers relied on to write the report, which do not contain exempt information and which are not published elsewhere)
Cabinet Member(s) Ward(s) affected
Cllr. Richard Kershaw All
Contact Officer: Stuart Quick, Economic Growth Manager, 01263 516263, email@example.com
The EGM introduced the report and informed Members that it was intended to give Members early sight of the fund, the timescales involved and how the process would be taken forward. He added that the fund could be considered a top-up of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and would be available to local authorities across England as a successor to the EU model for rural funding. It was noted that the funding was intended for capital projects that would support either local business communities, or the communities themselves in order to help improve productivity and strengthen the rural economy. The EGM stated that the indicative funding allocation for North Norfolk was £1.457m, which was the second highest amount in Norfolk behind Kings Lynn and West Norfolk. He added that the first twenty-five percent of funding was expected in the first year, with the remainder released in the following two years. It was noted that the local partnership group model adopted for the Shared Prosperity Fund to determine funding allocations would be utilised with key representative groups and more rural partners. The EGM stated that the Council was required to submit an addendum to the Shared Prosperity Fund outlining key rural challenges and priorities by 30th November. It was expected that the Council would hear whether this had been approved early in 2023, though the funding was guaranteed as it was not a competitive application process.
Questions and Discussion
i. Cllr N Housden asked whether the North Norfolk Sustainable Community Fund (NNSCF) would have any input in the process, or potentially receive additional funding. The EGM replied that the Council had indicated that it would use the Shared Prosperity Fund to support the NNSCF, and further funding may not therefore be necessary.
ii. Cllr L Withington asked whether it would be appropriate for Members to consider the addendum before it was submitted to Government. It was noted that as a result of the tight timescale, it would not be possible for the Committee to review and provide feedback on the addendum, however a summary paper outlining the key priorities could be bought back for consideration in due course.
iii. Cllr V Holliday suggested that she would be interested to see who the additional stakeholders would be, to which the ADSG replied that these would include rural business representative groups such as the NFU. He added that there was a broad range of rural issues that the fund could be used to address ranging from nature and conservation issues, to farm diversification projects. Cllr V Holliday suggested that it would be helpful not to place too much emphasis on tourism, as it was important to encourage economic diversity across the District. The ADSG agreed and stated that whilst support for tourism schemes had been addressed previously, it should be noted that many farm diversification projects could include some element of tourism.
iv. Cllr S Bütikofer noted that the report suggested that more details on the fund were anticipated from Government, and asked whether this was still the case. The EGM replied that funds were often launched with a slim prospectus, followed by webinars and opportunities for questions that would help applicants better understand the process. Cllr S Bütikofer replied that this was a concern, as it appeared that Councils were asked to apply for funding without being given full details. She noted that the report suggested that some funding could be used for related staffing costs, which did not imply the light touch approach suggested elsewhere within the report. The EGM replied that the application itself would be relatively light touch compared to the levelling-up bids, and would only need to outline key issues and interventions. He added that despite this, it was important not to underestimate the level of resource and time commitment required, and in this case, no clear allocation had been made for this. It was suggested that Government may have assumed that Council’s would use the existing allocation of approximately £50k from the Shared Prosperity Fund to support the process. The EGM acknowledged that this was a risk, but the Council were in the process of recruiting an Economic Programme and Funding Manager to support both bids going forward. Cllr S Bütikofer suggested that it may be helpful to inform Government that continuing to prematurely announce funds without full guidance and detail was not helpful and risked Councils not being able to make the most of funds. The Chairman agreed with concerns related to short timescales and lack of information, but suggested that at this point the Committee should focus more on the efforts required to complete the application process.
v. Cllr H Blathwayt suggested that the fund appeared to be a crossover with ELMS and also loosely associated with GIRAMS, and asked whether the fund would affect these projects, and whether local access forums could be involved in development. The ADSG replied that he could not comment too much on ELMS projects, but could state that the fund would be separate and focus more on developing the rural economy than on land management and farming practices. Cllr H Blathwayt stated that he had recently visited an active ELMS project on diversification of farm buildings and suggested that in this case, the two funding streams appeared to be similar. The ADSG said that he was not aware of the match-funding implications and suggested that consideration would need to be given to determine whether the two funds could be used together.
1. To note the contents of the report.
2. To endorse the process for developing the REPF Addendum to the UKSF. It is proposed that this follows the same principles and processes that were adopted to develop the UKSPF Investment Plan and will be led by the Economic Growth Manager and Assistant Director for Sustainable Growth, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder for Sustainable Growth. An established Local Partnership Group, composed of a variety of key local stakeholders, is already in place and will help to inform and shape the final submission. However, given that this fund is more rural focussed, there is likely to be value in inviting additional stakeholders representing aspects of the rural economy.