According to an exclusive poll for WalesOnline, people in Wales would much rather see the country’s post-Brexit regional aid policy run by the Welsh Government rather than Westminster.
The result comes at a crucial time, with the UK government due to announce details of how its Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) will operate on Wednesday. The SPF is the main program of the government’s “race to the top” program.
The Welsh and Scottish governments are unhappy that smaller precursor schemes run by Westminster have seen them sidelined, with the distribution of funds run by the UK’s Department of Leveling Up. This contrasts with the situation before Brexit, when devolved administrations were responsible for allocating EU aid funds. See our report here on the massive impact Covid, Brexit and climate change will have on parts of Wales.
The Welsh Government will feel vindicated by the result of today’s poll of 1,000 people by Beaufort Research, which shows that almost half of respondents overall (47%) would like responsibility for the program post-Brexit regional aid falls to the Welsh Government. Almost three in ten (29%) opted for both governments to be jointly responsible, while less than two in ten (17%) felt the UK government should hold power. Some 6% could not answer.
Those aged 35-54 and those aged 55+ were more likely than those aged 16-34 to say it should be the Welsh government (at 53% and 49% respectively, compared to 39% of young people). young people were more likely to opt for both governments together than middle-aged and older people and were also more likely to answer ‘don’t know’.
People from higher socio-economic classes (ABC1) were more likely to want the Welsh government to allocate and distribute regional aid funds than those from lower socio-economic groups (C2DE) at 50% versus 45%. Fluent Welsh speakers were most likely to choose the Welsh government overall (at 55% vs. 47% overall) and least likely to choose the UK government (at 12% vs. 17% overall) .
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “It is clear that the people of Wales continue to want the Welsh Government to play a strong role in leading and managing Shared Prosperity Funds, reflecting the position in the Welsh election. 2021. We are in active discussion with the UK Government to reach agreement on the Welsh Government’s co-decision role in the SPF, something we have been seeking since the SPF was first announced almost four years ago. However, we remain concerned that Wales are still at risk of losing nearly £1billion in funding. We continue to press UK ministers on this.
A UK government spokeswoman said: “Local authorities and community groups are best placed to understand the funding needed for their area – not politicians in Brussels, London or Cardiff Bay. The model we have put in place for post-Brexit regional funding has been welcomed by local authorities in Wales and represents a further devolution of decision-making and responsibility to those who know their communities best.
“In partnership with councils and communities, the UK government has already invested in 175 projects across Wales with additional direct funding of £165million to support community renewal, skills and jobs and the next series of projects will be announced later this year. On top of that, we will reach previous levels of EU funding in Wales and across the UK in 2022.”
Treasury spokesman for Plaid Cymru, MP for Ben Lake, said: ‘The UK government misjudged the mood on post-Brexit devolution, mistakenly believing the people of Wales wanted more interference from Westminster in his life. This poll puts to rest that misconception, making it clear that people in Wales trust their own government to tackle inequality more than an out of touch UK government.
“Plaid Cymru introduced legislation last month that would require the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on the devolution of management and administration of the Shared Prosperity Fund to the Welsh Government. Through my bill, we could replace the Conservatives’ pork barrel approach with a transformational program of investment in our social infrastructure – housing, care homes, doctors’ offices, schools, libraries and parks.
“Westminster has neither the public support nor the necessary understanding of Welsh communities to oversee regional aid. There is no justification for denying these powers to Wales any longer.
A Welsh Tory spokesman said: ‘The UK government got Brexit done when the Welsh government wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to stop it. The Welsh government no more holds the monopoly than Westminster wisdom about what is best for Welsh communities, and that is why over the past two years the Conservative Government has directly invested hundreds of millions of pounds in communities across Wales, saving active vital resources of local communities and helping territories to bounce back from the pandemic.
“What matters to people is that the maximum amount of money reaches our local communities and their priorities, and is not wasted on unnecessary bureaucracy and Labor vanity projects that only benefit South Wales. . The Welsh Conservatives secured a guarantee from the UK government in 2019 that Wales would not lose any funding as a result of leaving the EU – and it’s clear the Conservative government will go further in leveling our whole country than the EU has never been made.”
Fieldwork for the survey took place between 28 February and 20 March 2022. A total of 1,000 interviews were conducted and analyzed to ensure the sample was representative of all Welsh adults.