From 2014 to 2020, the UK was allocated €11bn (£9.4bn) of European Structural Funding. This paid for projects across Britain to tackle social exclusion, build skills, and support people into employment, as well as enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The UK has of course left the European Union. So, as these projects conclude, they will not be eligible for further EU money.
The UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), meant to succeed European funding, will open for applications later this year. However, the pre-launch guidance revealed that support for employment and skills initiatives is not likely to be available until 2024-2025. We’re facing a cliff edge where support could suddenly end.
This comes at a time when there are over 1 million fewer people in the labour market than on pre-pandemic trends. The sudden funding gap will hit the most marginalised people in the least well-off areas, which could make it harder for the government to deliver the Levelling Up agenda.
It is therefore imperative that this cliff edge is avoided.