This may include supporting markets and pop up food concessions, creating new outdoor seating areas or making high streets as beautiful as possible. The Welcome Back Fund is the latest in a long list of new public funds as the Government looks to kickstart the economy after the Covid-19 lockdown.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick launched the Welcome Back Fund on 20 March 2021 announcing that the public funding will give "every city, town and high street support to prepare for a great summer". The announcement forms part of a wider range of measures to help high streets and seaside towns prepare for the return of shoppers and tourists on 12 April 2021.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government ("MHCLG") will oversee the £56m funding programme which originates from the remaining English allocation of the European Regional Development Fund.
What are the aims of the Welcome Back Fund?
The aims of the Welcome Back Fund will be to help councils prepare for the safe return of shoppers, diners and tourists following the easing of lockdown restrictions. MHCLG has also confirmed that a portion of the funding will be specifically targeted to support coastal areas, with funding going to all coastal resorts across England to improve the safety of holidaymakers this summer.
The funding can be used by councils to:
- improve the look and feel of high streets by investing in street planting, parks, green spaces and seating areas, planting flowers and removing graffiti;
- support local businesses by running publicity campaigns and preparing to hold events like street markets and festivals; and
- install signage and floor markings to encourage social distancing and safety.
Further information about the fund can be found here.
High Streets Taskforce
At the same time as the Welcome Back Fund announcement, a new raft of measures was announced to help revive high streets. This included the names of the first 70 locations to benefit from targeted support from experts who will help realise local people's vision of what their high street can achieve. It also involved changes to the law to allow every pub to erect a marquee and steps to tackle cowboy parking firms. These measures build on other initiatives to improve high streets including the £350m Future High Streets Fund, the £220m Community Renewal Fund and the £3.6bn Towns Fund.
The importance of designing compliance into the delivery of public funded programmes
ERDF has been used to fund the £56m Welcome Back Fund and therefore it is necessary to take a firm approach to collecting evidence to demonstrate compliance. Where businesses receive support this will involve taking account of the new Subsidy Control rules and where suppliers are engaged it will be necessary to follow the relevant procurement guidance. Such steps should be factored into the delivery process and should not overshadow the good news that public funding is available to improve high streets and seaside towns this Summer.
DWF Law LLP has exceptional experience in public funding issues, including setting up programmes of support which satisfy government guidance, advising upon how to compliantly procure services and satisfy the Subsidy Control rules. Members of our Public Sector team having worked within the Central Government, Local Government, the European Commission and with private sector bodies on high profile public funding initiatives. This means that we are a safe pair of hands when it comes to managing issues such as this. Feel free to get in touch, if it would be useful to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or other matters related to public funding.