Goodbye ESIF, Hello Shared Prosperity Fund

With the UK’s departure from the European Union fast approaching (…or is it?), the ekosgen team have been working with the Core Cities[1] and Scottish Cities[2] to help prepare for the introduction of the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF).  The SPF is the UK Government’s proposed replacement for the European Structural and Investment Funds - better known to those working in economic development as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF).

Whilst the UK as a whole is a net contributor to the EU budget, many areas of the UK benefit from some of that famous £350m per week being returned to the UK through the Structural Funds - the EU’s funding stream to support regional economic development.  From its very early days the EU has been committed to the principle of cohesion - encouraging development in those areas lagging behind economically to bring them up to the level of the best performing economies.

Since 2000, the UK has received over €36bn in ERDF and ESF through the Structural Funds, with much of it targeted on the poorest areas.  Whilst many criticisms can be made of the bureaucracy and eligibility restrictions that have come to plague Structural Fund programmes, they did at least provide guaranteed, long-term funding for economic development, allocated between areas based on a transparent and objective mechanism - in contrast to some UK government funding streams.

The Core Cities and Scottish Cities have invested Structural Funds in numerous projects and programmes to improve their economies.  Many of the cities have been physically transformed by EU-funded investment, with Manchester’s Eastlands Development, Liverpool’s waterfront and Sheffield’s Heart of the City just three examples.  Structural Funding has also supported innovation and business growth, employability and training, the move towards a low carbon economy and (in the earlier programmes) transport infrastructure including the Nottingham Tram and various airports.

As this funding stream disappears and a new one is being developed, the Core Cities and Scottish Cities wanted to ensure they were well-positioned to influence the Government’s thinking on the SPF.  Our work highlighted the successes that the Cities had achieved through their use of Structural Funds, as well as reflecting on the limitations of the Structural Fund approach.  The reports set out the key principles which the Cities would like to see built into the SPF:

  • a fund which works within a national framework but is driven by local strategy,
  • outcome rather than output-based,
  • a single, flexible pot of funding
  • maximum devolution of management and delivery to local level, and
  • a simplified appraisal system.

Although the Government is yet to begin the long-promised consultation on the SPF, whenever it does, the Core Cities and Scottish Cities will be well-placed to make their case for increased funding and greater local control.

For more information please contact John McCreadie at or on 0845 644 3023.




[1] Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield

[2] Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness Perth, and Stirling