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October 19, 2018 2:00 PM


The Government is likely to fail to invest almost £1 billion in local communities through the European Social Fund (ESF) risking the money being sent back to Brussels, with the deadline for the money to be spent fast approaching. EU funding

The European Social Fund is the European Union's main financial instrument for supporting employment, skills and training in member states and is worth an estimated £3.1 billion of investment into the UK economy.

The fund runs from 2014-2020 but the Government has so far only been able to confirm that 48 per cent of the money has been allocated despite having had nearly five years of the seven-year period. The Local Government Association (LGA) is concerned that there is a lack of capacity within Whitehall to ensure ESF money is spent quickly in the local communities which so desperately need it.

  • Through the 2007-13 ESF programme, it is estimated that the New Anglia area (Norfolk & Suffolk) would have received £88.5 million investment in skills and productivity of the labour market. *
  • For the current programme (2014-20) the New Anglia has had £35.7 million allocated to it, which should result in a total of £71.4 million being invested in Suffolk and Norfolk's labour markets. *

Based on the Government continuing to spend at this level, which actually shows signs of slowing down rather than increasing, the LGA said this could result in £914 million being sent back to Brussels. This money could be used to support nearly 650,000 young people into work or training.

With drastic reductions in national funding to help people with skills training and employment support, the ESF is a life-line for local areas like Suffolk and Norfolk, targeting training and job support for residents and businesses, especially for vulnerable groups who experience additional barriers to accessing the workplace. However the centralised control from the Department for Work and Pensions has made it difficult for local areas to access funding, and of late has seen funding drying up for long periods.

Liberal Democrats are saying that this cash must be allocated before its end date of 2020 to ensure that local communities are getting the investment they desperately need.

Local Suffolk Liberal Democrat Campaigner Jon James said:

"The current situation with the European Social Fund is leaving local areas facing huge financial shortfalls as a result of a lack of investment. This funding has been used by Norfolk and Suffolk to create hundreds of jobs, support small and medium enterprises, deliver skills training, and invest in critical transport and digital infrastructure and boost inclusive growth across the country.

"To help ensure we have an economy fit for the future, the Liberal Democrts urge the Government to act urgently to ensure that local communities across Suffolk and Norfolk receive the investment they desperately need.

"Without action there is a risk that nearly a billion of pounds of investment into our communities will be lost and local areas and economies will be denied desperately-needed funding.

"This is yet another problem caused by Brexit, and a powerful reason why we need to give people a say on the final deal, with the option to remain. People's Vote (By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57152883)

Sources: * Local Enterprise Partnership for Suffolk and Norfolk An analysis of EU funding from 2007-2020



Lib dems Demand Better (Lib Dems)