Millions of pounds set to boost prosperity in Westmorland and Furness

Moves are underway to invest £7.3 million of government funding in projects which support local businesses and communities in Westmorland and Furness.

The money from the government’s three-year UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) will be distributed to partners and used to support projects that fit within three categories of the fund, including Community and Place, Supporting Local Business and People and Skills.

Barrow Borough Council, Eden District Council and South Lakeland District Council allocated just over £1 million for 2022/23 to projects including the production of a tourism and heritage strategy for Piel Island; public realm enhancements at Portland Walk in Barrow and in Dalton town centre; funding for Inspira to continue delivering its established employment support programme across the Westmorland and Furness area; and the Inspiring Eden Economic Prospectus, which looks to support local businesses and drive economic prosperity.

After the vesting of Westmorland and Furness Council on 1 April 2023, the three separate UKSPF programmes managed by the district councils are now being brought together into a single amalgamated investment programme for Westmorland and Furness with £2,017,798 allocated to be used in 2023/24 and £5,286,627 for 2024/25.

It is hoped a call for projects can be put out in June, with applications received and appraised in July, with a view to projects starting in the autumn.

Angela Jones, Westmorland and Furness Council’s Director of Thriving Places, said: “Now that we have amalgamated the three programmes into one, we will soon be inviting people to apply for funding that fit within the three categories of the fund.  Investment of UKSPF will be a powerful tool towards making Westmorland and Furness a great place to live, work and thrive, especially given the opportunities to deliver funds to projects which will support activity in our communities and support local business to grow.

“The fund will help business and organisations provide leadership in the drive to become carbon net zero, build confident, empowered, resilient communities and support sustainable, inclusive, economic growth. Great things are happening in Westmorland and Furness and we as a council are proud to be playing a major role in improving the lives and life chances of residents.”

A further allocation of £2,189,651 is coming to Westmorland and Furness through the Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF) as a ‘top-up’ to the UKSPF. Focused on supporting local business in rural areas through providing capital funding for small and medium enterprises, and supporting the development of community infrastructure, the allocation was based on awards to former council areas – £1,051,689 for Eden and £1,137,962 for South Lakeland.

The Shared Prosperity Fund replaced the previous EU-funded structural and regional development programmes (European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund) and projects have to fit three main investment criteria – grouped into themes of Communities and Place, Supporting Local Business, and People and Skills.

The areas Westmorland and Furness will focus on in those themes are: communities and place (town centre improvements; arts, cultural, heritage and creative activities; Active Travel; volunteering and social action; sports facilities, tournaments and teams); supporting local business (strengthening local entrepreneurial ecosystems; business decarbonisation) and people and skills (employment support for economically inactive people; skills support for employed people).

A Local Partnership Group for the three areas made up of local stakeholders was established last year to oversee the development of the first year of the Investment Plan and provide advice on the strategic fit and deliverability of projects during the selection process.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills.

Click here for more information about the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

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