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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 30 July 2007

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ESF SET TO BOOST NORTH WEST EMPLOYABILITY

THE employability skills of the North West’s workforce are set for a major boost thanks to a new programme of European Social Funding (ESF) that will be introduced this year.  Currently under development by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), working with its partners in the North West, the new programme of funding will provide a much greater focus on employment and skills and will link closely to joint work undertaken with Jobcentre Plus, the North West’s other major co-financing organisation.

£350 million will be available to the North West between now and 2013 with the aim of helping 300,000 people secure employment and 155,000 individuals to improve their skills.  Consultation events will be held throughout the North West to engage with stakeholders and co-finance organisations about the overall implementation of this new ESF programme in the North West.  As well as raising awareness of the LSC’s plans for the procurement and management of ESF activity in the future, the consultation will give local stakeholders the chance to influence and shape the co-finance plan.

The consultations will also aim to align the ESF programme with ongoing activity in the sub regions by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Jobcentre Plus, City Employment Strategies and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programmes.  The culmination of the consultation will be the publication of a procurement prospectus in the autumn which will set out the activities that intend to be undertaken from February 2008 onwards.

Paul Holme, Regional Skills Director for the LSC in the North West comments:- “The consultation will be a chance for local stakeholders to have a say on how ESF money is best spent in their area. Each local area has specific needs and with the help and guidance of local agencies this funding will be tailored to these needs to boost the skills of local people, help get people back into work and provide innovative programmes of training.”

Letters To Editor:- "Please Can Your Readers Help?"

"I am searching some information of how my daughters father David Richard Banks fell out of the The Royal Clifton Hotel windowin Southport on the 5 July 2001. 

We need some sort of information, if your readers have some then please could your readers send it to us or get in contact with us via your newsroom, as we need to close this. 

It has been an emotional time, many thanks." Melanie McGrath

HOUSING TARGETS CAN BE MET BY HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS

THE National Housing Federation, which represents Englands housing associations, believes Governments proposals to build 10,000 affordable homes a year in the North can be achieved without significantly increasing the regions flood risks, especially if care is taken with the locations for the regions new growth hotspots.  However, the Federation has warned Government that its financial assumptions are seriously flawed, and that the national investment of £8bn outlined in the Green Paper could fail to secure the 70,000 new affordable homes a year that are needed.  It also says that attempting to meet the Governments house building targets with this flawed financial modelling could bankrupt the housing association sector within 5 years.

Derek Long, National Housing Federation Head of North, said:- "The Governments heart is in the right place - unfortunately, its wallet isnt. We calculate there is a shortfall of about 3.6 billion pounds nationally. Pushing associations too far will certainly squeeze the millions of pounds they invest in community centres, wardens and other essentials that often keep our communities together."

On Growth Points

Government heard our call for more resources to support the Norths economic growth. This is a major step forward, ensuring growth hotspots - for example around York, Warrington and Durham - will be less hindered by spiralling house prices.

On flood plains

Ministers should be applauded for recognising that theres simply no way we could tell the 560,000 people currently on waiting lists for a decent home in Yorkshire and Humberside, that we cant build any more new homes because of concerns about flood plains. After all, much of the country is a flood plain.

We need to build new homes while substantially improving our flood defences and drainage systems - and the Environment Agency should be more active in vetoing any new development at serious risk of flooding.

On housing supply and investment

We commend the Government for agreeing with us that to solve the nations desperate housing crisis we need 70,000 new social homes a year. However, ministers have to put their money where their mouth is and invest sufficiently for the building of these homes.

We fear that the Government has got its maths wrong on the investment required to build the 10,000 new social homes a year in the region. Nationally they need to invest £11.6bn, not the £8bn proposed in the green paper. Attempting to meet the Governments house building targets with this flawed financial modelling could bankrupt the housing association sector within five years, and could easily lead to us making the same mistakes of the 60s and 70s all over again.

On environmental standards

To minimise the impact of new housing on global warming, private developers should be compelled to meet the same tough, environmental standards as housing associations. This would lower CO2 emissions, cut household bills and drive down the cost of green building materials - and help us to minimise flood risk.

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