Members of full Council were presented with a report on the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund and provided with an update on the process currently underway to develop a Highland Investment Plan which will determine how the funding may be used locally.
A financial allocation of £9,445,515 has been awarded to Highland Council over a three-year period, which runs from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2025.
The fund is designed to deliver on the UK Government’s commitment to level-up the whole of the UK.
The focus is placed on a ‘levelling up opportunity and prosperity as well as overcoming deep-seated geographic inequalities.
The Shared Prosperity Fund is one part of this Levelling Up agenda and succeeds the old EU structural funds.
The fund has four objectives:
- boost productivity, pay, jobs and living standards by growing the private sector;
- spread opportunities and improve public services;
- restore a sense of community, local pride and belonging; and
- empower local leaders and communities.
With the proposed approach now agreed by Highland Councillors, work will progress in drawing up a finalised investment plan for submission to the UK Government by 1 August 2022.
To assist with the preparation of the investment plan, the Council have been in active discussion with internal colleagues and external partners as they seek to map current activity and identify how best the fund could be used.
There are key themes which are being established in line with the investment plan requirements.
They are grouped across the three investment priorities:
– Communities and Place,
– Local Business Investment,
– People and Skills (with Multiply sub-theme).
Detailed interventions being worked up will be based around several themes which reflect business and community needs and opportunities as highlighted in the following priority objectives:
Communities and Place
- To strengthen social fabric and foster a sense of local pride and belonging
- To build resilient, healthy and safe neighbourhoods
Supporting Local Businesses
- Create jobs and boost community cohesion
- Promote networking and collaboration
- Increasing private sector investment in growth-enhancing activities
People and Skills
- Boost core skills and support adults to progress in work
- Reduce levels of economic inactivity
- Supporting people furthest from the labour market barriers to work
- Supporting local areas to fund gaps in local skills provision
Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Cllr Ken Gowans, welcomed the funding.
“Over £9.5m from the Shared Prosperity Fund will provide a significant boost to local communities, businesses and skills development.
“There is an opportunity for local design and delivery, within the parameters set by the UK Government, to decide how best the fund can be used locally for maximum effect, through a Highland Investment Plan.”