The UK government is committed to levelling up across the whole of the United Kingdom to ensure that no community is left behind, particularly as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
That is why we are now making the biggest changes to the way we support local economic growth in a decade, in order to regenerate our town centres and high streets, support individuals into employment, improve local transport links and invest in local culture, while giving communities a stronger voice to take over cherished local assets that might otherwise be lost.
This will involve the UK government decentralising power and working more directly with local partners and communities across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who are best placed to understand the needs of their local areas and more closely aligned to the local economic geographies to deliver quickly on the ground.
To support these objectives, the UK government has launched three new investment programmes to support communities right across the country. All share common challenges and opportunities, which the UK government is determined to address in collaboration with local partners. These new investment programmes are:
The UK Community Renewal Fund
The Levelling Up Fund
The Community Ownership Fund
As we look towards the UK Shared Prosperity Fund next year, we are conscious of the need for an evolution of the way we support local economic growth so it can best support levelling up for the long term. The UK government will work with local partners throughout 2021 to develop an approach that delivers the infrastructure and regeneration priorities local leaders want to see in their area.
We will also be working with local businesses on the future role of Local Enterprise Partnerships. We want to ensure local businesses have clear representation and support in their area, in order to drive the recovery. We will work with Local Enterprise Partnerships over the coming months, with a view to announcing more detailed plans ahead of summer recess. This will also include consideration of Local Enterprise Partnership geographies.
Later this year we will publish an Investment Framework for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund – the replacement to European Union structural funds – which will commence in 2022.
The UK Community Renewal Fund
The UK government is providing an additional £220 million funding through the UK Community Renewal Fund to help local areas prepare for the launch of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in 2022.
This Fund aims to support people and communities most in need across the UK to pilot programmes and new approaches and will invest in skills, community and place, local business, and supporting people into employment.
The £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund will invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK, including regenerating town centres and high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in cultural and heritage assets.
The UK government has launched a new £150 million Community Ownership Fund to help ensure that communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can support and continue benefiting from the local facilities, community assets and amenities most important to them.
In order to fully examine, learn and implement the lessons of the first pilot bidding round of the Community Ownership Fund, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will be pushing back the start date for the second round to spring 2022. This will enable us to ensure that the Community Ownership Fund is able to effectively invest in communities across the United Kingdom and that communities have more time to submit successful applications to the fund.
We will be launching an updated prospectus, assessment guidance and application form in spring 2022. Alongside this we will also be offering additional support to interested groups to help as many projects as possible to benefit from the fund.
In the meantime, we understand that some community groups who were unsuccessful in round 1 will be seeking to reapply for funding due to urgent time constraints related to saving their community asset. We will therefore be reopening round 1 only for those applicants whose bids were eligible but were not funded in the first bidding round on 6 December 2021 and closing in February 2022. The assessment criteria and prospectus will remain the same as round 1, and we are therefore only looking for markedly improved bids to reapply, otherwise projects will not meet the requirements for funding.
We will be contacting all those who were eligible but unfunded in round one to discuss how we can offer support them going forward.