We recently received an update on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund from Julie Obada, Head of Skills – City of Wolverhampton Council:
UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UK SPF) aims to replace EU Structural Funds which comprised of European Regional Development Funds and European Social Funds which we recognise were an important source of funding for the City and its partners including the VCS. It is allocated on the basis of 70% population and 30% needs, therefore the amount available to Wolverhampton is significantly less than formally received via EU Structural Funds.
The SPF lead for Wolverhampton is the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), who submitted the Investment Plan at the end of October 2022, for approval by Government anticipated in November, with the Grant Funding Agreements signed in December between WMCA and the Government.
The WMCA are proposing 50% being retained regionally for business support activity, with the remainder allocated to individual local authorities to support local priorities under the Communities and Place and People and Skills strands (the latter priority is not available until 2024/25).
Wolverhampton’s allocation is £3.7 million over 3 years, growing from a relatively small allocation in 2022/23, increasing significantly in 2024/25 when People and Skills priority resources become available. Funding is in annual allocations and must be spent in that financial year.
Proposals for the local allocation are going to the Council’s Cabinet Resources Panel mid-November 2022 for approval.
Current proposals are that the largest proportion of funding is targeting the VCS, under Communities and Place initially, with an additional allocation under People and Skills in 2024/25 when that priority becomes available.
The intention is that the communities pot will support local priorities, including place-based financial resilience, digital inclusion and employment and skills.
As it is expected that the back-to-back Grant Funding Agreement between the WMCA and the Council will not be signed until December 2022, it is anticipated that 2022/23 resources will focus on capacity building community organisations, with funding available for VCS organisations’ project delivery from 2023/24, coinciding with the end of Building Better Opportunities funding.
The exact means of distribution of funds are currently being explored and we will arrange a briefing with the VCS sector when more information is available.
We recognise that our local allocation is significantly less than we formally received through EU Structural Funds, therefore we are in discussion with the WMCA about the use of other WMCA budgets to fund other priorities, including support to get people online and improve digital skills.
This programme is part of the People and Skills strand of SPF, and is the only part of that strand to be starting in 2022/23.
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is responsible for the Multiply programme, for which the region has received nearly £16 million over 3 years.
The WMCA has decided to focus the Multiply programme on improving the numeracy skills of employed people, as they are currently under-represented in Adult Education Budget funded provision. Employed for this programme includes all forms of employment, including full-time, part-time, zero hour contracts, self employment.
The WMCA has decided to split the programme across four pillars, led by Training Providers, Colleges, Local Authorities and Universities. For the LA strand, we are focusing on Financial Literacy and Wellbeing, incorporating numeracy.
We have had to submit a plan to WMCA for consideration for year 1 activity, i.e. up to end March 2023, and we awaiting approval from WMCA. All programme activity has to comply with AEB funding rules and submission of data via the ILR, and for us will be led by Adult Education Wolverhampton. In light of this, the opportunities for the VCS in year 1 will be around engagement and venue hire.
We will share further info with the VCS sector as soon as possible on the next steps.