Give EU funds to us, not Government, says sector network

The Third Sector European Network is pressing Secretary of State for Work and Pensions John Hutton to set up a specific voluntary sector body to administer European structural funds.

The network, which recently secured a grant from the Cabinet Office to employ a full-time director and other paid staff, could itself act as a conduit for some of the money, Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, executive director of CSV, has suggested.

The Government is suggesting that the funds, which could amount to as much as £280m over the next six years, should be channelled through statutory agencies such as learning and skills councils and Jobcentre Plus (Third Sector, 8 November).

But the TSEN argues that this system would mainly benefit government projects and that many charities helping the socially excluded and those far from the labour market would miss out. It wants at least a third of structural funds to be processed through a third sector body to make sure charitable projects don’t lose out.

“This is completely out of line with EU policy, which states that the funds should go towards initiatives that are additional to government programmes,” said Hoodless, whose charity would be among those facing funding cuts if the Government’s plans were to go ahead. “Our concern is for those who are furthest from the labour market. They are the ones who would not be getting funding next year.”

She added that the network and many charities that could be affected by the Government’s proposals would be asking MEPs to raise their concerns at the European Parliament.

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