SET TO BOOST NORTH WEST EMPLOYABILITY
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
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.”
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HOUSING TARGETS CAN BE MET BY HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS
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
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
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
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.