The UK government has allocated £127m to NI to fund projects for community groups, local businesses, and skills development.
The new UK Shared Prosperity Fund is effectively a post-Brexit replacement for EU structural funds, which included the likes of the Rural Development Programme (RDP). Overall, £2.6bn will be made available across UK regions by March 2025. In Britain, local councils will take the lead in managing the funding but its rollout in NI will be overseen by the UK government.
New guidance states that projects funded by the Shared Prosperity Fund in NI will be “performance managed” by officials from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
The London-based department plans to develop an “investment plan” for NI by working with “local partners”.
“This group could include representatives from NI Executive Departments, local authorities, businesses and the community and voluntary sector,” new guidance states.
The EU-funded RDP covered a broad range of projects and grants, including the Farm Business Improvement Scheme, the Environmental Farming Scheme, and the LEADER programme.
However, the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund appears to be mainly aimed at replacing the likes of the LEADER programme, with current guidance heavily focused on projects for local communities and small businesses.
Going forward, farm capital grant schemes and environmental projects have been lumped together with direct farm support as part of overall future agricultural policy.