Yesterday, the Government launched the £1.6bn Stronger Towns Fund to ‘boost growth and give communities a greater say in their future after Brexit’. The fund will be used to ‘create new jobs, help train local people and boost economic activity’, particularly in the North and the Midlands over six years until 2026.

ERSA welcomes the announcement of funding which will support people into work and better jobs. However, there was initially significant confusion about whether the new fund was intended to replace existing EU Structural Funds, including the European Social Fund (ESF) for programmes which support thousands of disadvantaged people into work. There is certainly an overlap in the objectives of the new Stronger Towns Fund and the intended scope of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, the ESF’s proposed successor.

While Government has clarified that the Stronger Towns Fund is additional to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, it is hardly surprising that so many MPs and organisations were quick to raise alarm yesterday in the face of continued uncertainty about post-Brexit funding for disadvantaged people and communities.

Yesterday’s confusion demonstrates the Government must end uncertainty by publishing the long overdue consultation on the UKPSF and guarantee an equivalent level of funding for disadvantaged jobseekers after Brexit.

ERSA’s Chief Executive, Elizabeth Taylor, said:

‘ERSA welcomes yesterday’s announcement of the Stronger Towns Fund which will provide funding to help support people into work. Like many organisations, ERSA is very interested to see how it will work alongside funding provided through the future UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

The confusion caused by yesterday’s announcement demonstrates Government needs to urgently provide clarity on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund by publishing the long overdue consultation without further delay. Confirming that funding will at least match the amount currently allocated to Britain through the European Social Fund would go some way to reassuring organisations left in limbo by the continued uncertainty. The Chancellor has the perfect opportunity in his Spring Statement next week.’