The North East ready to capitalise on EU funding guarantee.
The announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond extending the European Union funding guarantee to the point of Brexit is an opportunity the North East is determined to seize.
Confirmation that the Government will honour structural and investment fund projects signed before we have left the EU is welcome news.
We now hope that this signals that the programmes will start to flow again.
In the North East, we are ready, poised and waiting with our partners to ensure those projects in the pipeline get over the line and secure much needed EU funding.
The Government is clear about the criteria projects must meet for this to happen.
They must continue to meet EU funding rules but must also demonstrate good value for money and be in line with domestic strategic priorities.
In the North East, we have a very strong pipeline of projects.
Many of them are aligned with the priorities of the refreshed North East Strategic Economic Plan, produced after widespread consultation by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership with its partners.
It’s about making sure that we all have those projects lined up and ready to respond to any opportunities that might be forthcoming.
And the only way to get more projects to come forward now is to have more application rounds or calls.
We are waiting for Government to press the button and invite more applications which could be before or after the Autumn Statement on 23 November.
We know where we are going with a clear vision and plan and it’s the LEP’s role to make sure that the strategically important projects are supported by our local partners.
It’s important at this point to take stock of what is at stake here and why this investment is so important to our region.
The North East was originally allocated £437m in European Structural Funds up to 2020. Out of that central pot, at present over £198m remains unallocated.
Some of this funding is earmarked to support business growth and job creation. The LEP and partners recognise the need to support more business start-ups, create more growth through innovation, and support more small and medium sized businesses to export.
The European Social Fund is funding earmarked for skills and employment support, helping the unemployed and economically inactive back into work and supporting those in work to up-skill and re-skill. This will mean employees in the workplace will get the opportunity to progress their careers, and to provide them with the opportunity to progress from part-time to full-time work.
We also have key sectors that we need to support with digital skills, a need identified in the work we did with the business community in the SEP refresh and a key Government priority.
We need to ensure that people within traditional industries have the skills to allow them to take the career progression opportunities further up the ladder.
In the healthcare sector for example, one of the gaps we can see emerging is the need for more skilled individuals able to support the sector’s growth.
The 50-plus workforce could lend itself well to this sector, they have the capability to fill these roles given their life experience, but they need new skill sets to take those opportunities.
We are saying to Government that we are ready and poised and we know what our priorities are.
We will work tirelessly to take the funding opportunities when they arrive.
North East England is one of the UK regions which needs EU funding most, with a proven track record of investing it well.
If this money is committed, it could see our region with structural funding in place up to 2021-2022, which gives Government the time to create the new policies to have new funding streams in place for the period after this.
There is a need to do this. Let’s get this moving and let’s do this well.