Up to £65 million available to the sector

Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP – EU funding meetings

Spoiler – the sector will not get all that money, in fact we will be lucky to get 10% of it.

I have attended a couple of meetings about the next round of European Funding that will run 2014 – 2020. With the demise of the regional development agencies it is being left to the 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships to come up with strategies for how the UKs money from Europe should be spent.

First of all to find out what a LEP is follow this link to the website of ours, snappily titled the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP. From this you will see that this covers a pretty diverse area, you will also see that it is almost totally business focused. What you might not spot is that there was a VCS representative on the board but she has resigned, and that there is a VCSE sub group that meets to advise the board. So as a sector we have been noticed but not really listened to.

What struck me at the meetings I attended was that there was much that the VCS could do for the LEP and visa versa, but that more dialogue was needed. Check out this blog for another insight. It also struck me that many in the business sector did not have a real understanding of social inclusion and the reality of inequalities that exist in even affluent areas like Cambridge.

Prior to the first meeting that I attended we were sent this briefing paper. It is heavy on the business and growth side (where the LEP expertise obviously lies) but weaker on the social inclusion and reducing poverty side (where the VCS expertise lies). Yet I am not sure about how the VCS voice is being included despite the second meeting I attended being for the sector, and the first being mixed but with a healthy and diverse sector presence.

I have a worry that money will not go to grass-roots projects that will reduce poverty and inequality but will go towards growth industries and high level skills. These are important but would those industries survive without this (relatively small) amount of money and should we as tax payers continue to pay for upgrading the skills of workers who then benefit private companies.

If this money were focused on those most in need then we could be helping them to gain employment (possibly in these new industries), we could be rejuvenating communities and this would without doubt promote growth.

The LEP are on a tight timetable for getting the strategy to Whitehall and no one seems to know how the bidding process and management of the funds will work. I hope that there will be opportunities for the sector to influence future plans and for some real good to come out of the funding but…..

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