Deprived communities face a ‘disastrous’ future post-Brexit unless current EU funding is matched, MPs have warned the government.
The annual £500 million European Social Fund provides for employment and skills training in communities that are poorly served or neglected by ‘mainstream’ support.
A report by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee has warned that if there was a gap in funding after March 29 next year the consequences would be ‘disastrous’ for providers, for local areas and for individuals.
In evidence to the committee one service provider, Graham Parry of Groundwork, explained that if there was a gap ‘you will lose infrastructure, you will lose knowledge, you will lose delivery, you will lose support for clients and you will lose organisations’.
The committee warned that replacing ESF would be ‘no small investment’ as between 2007 and 2013 the total value of funding was around 8.6 billion euro.
In response to concerns the government has pledged to create a UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) which would serve a similar purpose to current EU funding.
Brexiteer Labour MP Frank Field, who chairs the committee, welcomed the move but warned if action was not quick existing suppliers could be ‘bankrupted’.
Field added: ‘The government must act quickly so that those excellent existing suppliers are not bankrupted.
‘Effective reform here offers the government an important new chance to begin to fill our skills gap from the community upwards, instead of having a top-down approach.’