Why Hull looks like it could be on the losing end of Brexit

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 20 Jul 2018

Remember that big red bus with its slogan suggesting £350m being sent to the European Unionevery week would be better spent on the NHS post-Brexit?

Now we're creeping closer to our break with the EU, it seems our politicians - or at least some of them - are starting to wake up and smell the coffee.

One of the numerous unanswered questions about Brexit revolves around what spare change might be available from not having to pay our subs to Brussels anymore.

Theresa May's recent promised "Brexit dividend" for the NHS was widely ridiculed before the government's own independent financial watchdog announced Brexit was more likely to weaken than strengthen the UK's public finances.

If that forecast is correct, it could be bad news for big infrastructure spending in our neck of the woods.

At the moment, European funding continues to get big projects out of the ground.

The soon-to-open Energy Works power plant in Hull benefited from a £20m EU grant while a quarter of the cost of a new £12m renewable energy and technology innovation centre near Hesslewas also covered by the EU.

The new Energy Works power plant in Hull

Worried about flooding? Thanks to the same EU funding regime, huge alleviation schemes around the outskirts of Hull and along the Rivers Hull and Humber have either been constructed or are in the process of being built.

In theory, from next year our EU subs will simply go into the UK government's coffers before being dished back out to the regions.

But, as everyone must now realise, nothing about Brexit is simple.

The government's Shared Prosperity Fund aims to replace the EU's Regional Development Fund, which currently has a £90m spending programme in the Humber region.

City council regeneration manager Mark Jones

The problem is, as the city council's respected regeneration director Mark Jones pointed out recently, no-one really knows how it will work.

"We don't know the shape of it yet, we don't know what it will look like," he told scrutiny councillors.

Big cities set to profit - but not Hull?

Clues to what it might be like lie in another recently-announced government funding initiative for a post-Brexit world.

The City Infrastucture Fund sounds like good news for places like Hull, but the small print suggests 80 per cent of any funding will be ringfenced for combined authorities like Greater Manchester led by directly elected mayors.

Similarly, a new report by the National Infrastructure Commission says future funding is likely to be targeted at so-called "Growth Cities" which can not only meet targets for new house-building but also contribute to a chunk of a scheme's capital costs.

In other words, big metropolitan city conurbations, or places like the Tees Valley and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough where land is plentiful, development corporations are established and elected mayors are already in place.

Ever get the feeling our slice of the cake in Hull is getting smaller by the day?

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