Rural Lens review on the Rural England Prosperity Fund Prospectus and Funding Formula
The Rural Services Network has published its Rural Lens review of the Rural England Prosperity Fund Prospectus and Funding Formula.
The RSN welcomes the announcement of the long-awaited Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF), and we are pleased to see that the Government has stressed that the REPF does not mean that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is an urban fund; that it too should reach rural areas. However, we do have some concerns:
- The fact that the scheme delivers capital funding only is one of the major concerns. It demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what is needed to support activity in rural areas and is a backward step. The lack of revenue funding ignores the issues of the capacity of rural councils regarding to the development and delivery of proposals.
- Capacity (or rather lack of it) is also a key issue for the business and community/voluntary organisations concerned, both in their ability to develop new products/services and support existing activities without some additional revenue support.
- A key difference to LEADER funding is that each LEADER programme had a Management & Administration budget, which could be up to 18% of the overall programme budget. It would have been very helpful if a provision such as that were included within the REPF.
- The allocation of funds such as the Rural England Prosperity Fund must better reflect the overall government funding (including the annual Local Government Funding Settlement) and therefore capacity issues of the different types of Councils benefiting from the schemes. In the Final Local Government Finance Settlement for 2023/24 Predominantly Urban areas get 59% more in Settlement Funding Assessment than do their Predominantly Rural counterparts – with the funding gap having widened compared to 2022/23.
- In our view the timescale did not allow sufficient time for meaningful consultation with the rural communities within the local authority areas on the specifics of this rural fund.
- It is essential that there is a full evaluation in due course of the whole of the initiative and not just on the delivery of outcomes. Such an evaluation should reflect on capital only aspect of the Fund.
You can read the full Rural Lens Review by clicking on the image below: