The Leader of the Council presented a report which set out the proposed interventions for inclusion in the Investment Plan for submission to the Government which detailed projects which met the requirements of the funding programme and supported the growth and prosperity of the District.
The Leader outlined this proposal as a significant opportunity to secure substantial investment for the District and represented the Government’s domestic replacement for the European Structural and Investment Funds programme. The aim of the fund was to support the current Government’s levelling up commitment through three investment priorities of communities and place, supporting local business and people and skills. The Council had been very successful in being awarded £3.898 million, meaning it could build upon the plans and existing priorities contained within the Corporate Plan’s vision to be the best district to live, work and visit. It was important this funding reached all four corners of the district, taking into account the numerous rural communities in South Kesteven.
It was now necessary to submit a Local Investment Plan to the Government by 1 August 2022. The Leader highlighted the process had consisted of a compressed and tight timeline in accordance with the guidance associated with the fund. The required consultation had been undertaken. However, it was clear to the Leader in speaking to representatives from other local authorities across the country that many had undertaken much less consultation than South Kesteven District Council, expressing pride in what had been achieved with regard to those people who had been approached and engaged with the process. Support was also being sought from local Members of Parliament.
The Government expected the Investment Plan, at this stage, to consist of high level ambitions, identifying the outcomes the Council wished to target based on local context and the interventions the Council was seeking to prioritise. The Investment Plan was therefore not an exhaustive document containing detailed project or intervention planning, solely those headline areas of what the Council was seeking to implement and deliver.
The Leader placed on record his gratitude to the Director of Growth and Culture and Head of Economic Development for the work they had done in respect of this scheme.
As a result of the extensive consultation undertaken, five clear investment activity themes had been identified as follows:
· Communities, Health and Wellbeing
· Environment and Infrastructure
· Culture, Arts and Heritage
· Enterprise, Innovation and Growth
· Employability and Skills
At this stage the Council needed to evidence to the Government that challenges and local needs were reflected in the investment themes, with it being imperative that best value could be achieved from the funding available to ensure the money went as far as possible.
The Deputy Leader of the Council seconded the proposition and proposed an amendment to add the following paragraph to the motion:
“Council is asked to approve delegation to the Council’s Section 151 Officer in conjunction with the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Leisure to amend the budget framework for the General Fund in order to incorporate the UK Shared Prosperity Fund allocations.”
The Leader of the Council, as mover of the original proposition, accepted the amendment.
The following points were made during debate of the motion:
· In terms of levelling up, a suggestion was made that the funding should be used where it was needed most in areas such as the Harrowby Ward and Earlesfield Ward
· With regard to the communities and place investment priority, the fund could be used to assist children in the Harrowby Ward and Earlesfield Ward with the provision of play equipment and recreational areas
· The UK Shared Prosperity Fund was the Government’s replacement for the EU funding the Council had previously received, however, £3,898 million over three years was not as substantial as it appeared. Members would inevitably dispute how much of the fund would be made available to the areas they represented across the district. However, there may be insufficient money available to deliver some of the initiatives anticipated. The capital element of the fund, for example, would not be enough to provide an all-weather pitch in an area, with the remaining funding being revenue funding
· In noting that decisions regarding the allocation of funding to individual initiatives would be ultimately undertaken by delegated powers by the Chief Executive and Section 151 Officer, in consultation with the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council, as recently agreed at Cabinet, a question was raised as to what process would be put in place to facilitate the scrutiny of these decisions
· Reference in the report was made to projects to fight anti-social behaviour as an example intervention under the community and place investment priority It was agreed that such an intervention needed emphasising across the district, which was becoming out of hand due to a lack of policing in some areas
· A question was raised regarding the two appendices attached to the report and why only Appendix A was being proposed for approval at this meeting
· Clarification was sought as to the decision-making delegation that had been granted by Cabinet regarding the allocation of funding
· It was hoped that CCTV and the deterrents that came with it for certain areas in the district could be introduced using this funding to address anti-social behaviour
The Leader of the Council, as part of their right of reply, made the following points:
· The delegation was in respect of the budget framework associated with the scheme to incorporate it within the Councils budget. The themes outlined in the Investment Plan would be submitted to the respective Overview and Scrutiny Committees where they could scrutinise the individual projects before any final decisions were taken
· Appendix A represented the Council’s submission to the Government, whereas Appendix B outlined an example of a proposal from an external organisation seeking an allocation of the fund based on the investment activity themes set out in paragraph 2.18 of the report, which would form a later stage of the process. Appendix B would be submitted to the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee at the relevant time to ascertain whether the Committee was in support of such a proposal
· In response to reference to the Harrowby and Earlesfield Wards, it was important to ensure this fund benefited the whole of the district. Deprivation existed in all four corners of the district, including rural areas, which needed to be taken into account
· Noting the comments regarding capital and revenue, the fund would still see £3.8 million injected into the district and would go a long way to help deliver some of the Council’s Corporate Plan priorities
Having been proposed and seconded, upon being taken to the vote the motion was AGREED.
1. Approves the proposed interventions, as set out in Appendix A to the report, to form the basis of the South Kesteven UK Shared Prosperity Fund Investment Plan, with the intention of this being submitted by 1 August 2022 for Government consideration.
2. Approves delegation to the Council’s Section 151 Officer in conjunction with the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Leisure to amend the budget framework for the General Fund in order to incorporate the UK Shared Prosperity Fund allocations.