ColegauCymru: We need urgent answers on the replacement for EU structural funds

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ColegauCymru has today called for an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for Wales in response to the publication of the Welsh Affairs Committee’s report Wales and the Shared Prosperity Fund: Priorities for the replacement of EU structural funding (1).

The report warns that with just three months to go until the end of the Brexit transition period, negligible progress has been made by the UK government to replace EU funds. With no substantive detail from UK ministers about their plans, a range of issues remain unresolved.

Research by ColegauCymru showed that over the 10 years to 2016, FEIs in Wales were involved in the delivery of EU funded projects to a total value of almost £600m, both as project lead or project partner (2).

ColegauCymru Chief Executive Iestyn Davies said,

“Today’s publication is hugely concerning for the further education and work-based learning sectors, and Wales more broadly. With no clear plan for how £375m a year of European funding will be replaced, we remain in a state of limbo. Wales has relied heavily on EU structural funds to support economic development, infrastructure, business and skills.”

As we draw ever closer to a ‘hard Brexit’, the situation for funding, including skills and apprenticeships funding, from April 2021 is deeply worrying. Knowledge and a degree of certainty about how replacement funding will operate is essential for further education colleges to support local economies and wider society as we seek to adjust to Wales’ new position outside the European Union. This is ever more urgent as we deal with the ongoing effects of the Covid19 pandemic.

The UK government was due to publish its consultation on the Shared Prosperity Fund by the end of 2018.  Yet in October 2020, there is still no clear proposal on how replacements for European funds will operate. This is not acceptable.

Iestyn Davies added,

The priorities and objectives of the Shared Prosperity Fund should be to improve the quality of life of people in the most deprived areas through project interventions to encourage beneficial and environmentally responsible forms of economic activity.

“This continued delay is not acceptable and is likely to leave many citizens of Wales with the view that the UK government is not concerned about them, or their aspirations for employment and their ability to earn a meaningful wage through a rewarding career.

We continue to be concerned by the lack of attention paid by the Wales Office to the key issue of replacement funding for programmes in skills and adult education, and the unwillingness of the Secretary of State to meet with us directly to discuss. We are now requesting urgent action to come to an agreeable solution.

Further Information

House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee
(1) Wales and the Shared Prosperity Fund: Priorities for the replacement of EU structural funding
2 October 2020

(2) Involvement of Welsh Further Education colleges and institutions in EU funding - An overview of the financial uptake
November 2017

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