UK regional inequality worst in Europe


Research by the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) has found that the severity of regional inequality within the UK would qualify it for more than £11 billion in EU regional development funding under the 2021-2027 cycle.

The current funding cycle runs from 2014-2020, during which time Wales is expected to have received £2.06 billion in support from the EU – or around 20% of total allocated to the UK.

The UK Government has suggested replacing EU investment with a new UK Shared Prosperity Fund after Brexit. However, despite promising to consult on the fund before the end of 2018, it has not published any substantial details as yet. It therefore remains unclear how much funding will be available, how it will be shared across the UK, and who will be responsible for handling the allocations.   

Recent figures suggest that Inner London remains the richest region in the UK with a GDP equivalent to 614% of the EU average, compared to just 68% for West Wales and the Valleys. Based on the CPMR’s research, Wales would be entitled to around £2.5 billion over the next cycle – a higher share of the UK total than would be allocated under the Barnett formula.

During questions to the Secretary of State for Wales in the House of Commons, Ben Lake stressed the importance of ensuring that Wales continues to receive an equivalent level of funding through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Ben Lake commented following the debate:

While it is good that regional and structural funding programmes have been available to us, it is nevertheless a shame that west Wales has continued to qualify for them. 

“UK economic development has historically focused the lion’s share of public investment on urban centres where the population is greater. Consequently, it is sadly unsurprising that such gross regional inequality has developed. Too often, economic strategy in relation to rural areas amount to little more than improving existing connections between the countryside and the cities, in the hope of accelerating the trickle of prosperity from the ‘economic engines’ and ‘powerhouses’ to the rural periphery. The result is that the productivity of rural areas is consistently below the UK average.

A new prosperity fund will determine the prospects of communities in Ceredigion for decades to come, and so it is essential that Wales continues to receive an equivalent level of funding if we are to have any hope of bridging this gap. I will endeavour to convince the UK Government of their duty to do so, and remind them of the promises made to this effect. Maintaining current levels of regional and structural investment alone will not magically solve the deep, structural flaws in the Welsh economy, but we cannot afford to proceed from even weaker ground.”

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