Introduction

The Conservative manifesto at the 2017 general election pledged a UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) which would seek to ‘reduce inequalities between communities across our four nations’. The fund is also expected to replace EU funding in the nations and regions of the UK.

Government has committed to introduce the UKSPF in April 2021, packaging it as an ‘individual-centred skills programme’ which is ‘easier to access for those who need it most’.

The Conservative 2019 election manifesto pledged that the UKSPF will ‘at a minimum match the size of [EU Structural Funds] in each nation […] and ensure that £500m of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is used to give disadvantaged people the skills they need to make a success of life’.

With the UK entering into economic recession for the first time in 11 years, reporting a 20.4% drop in GDP in the second quarter of 2020, the government’s ability to deliver such a wide-ranging fund has undoubtedly been affected. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has undertaken a programme of economic intervention hitherto unseen in peacetime. While its fiscal abilities have clearly been hampered, unemployment is on the rise and the chancellor has declared that ‘hard times are here’, warning of a further wave of job losses. Against this backdrop, a UKSPF which focuses on skills and training will be all the more important to get Britain’s economy going again, playing a crucial part in the UK’s recovery after the worst of the pandemic has passed.