Anger as funding cut reduces employment opportunities

Funding cut will reduce the number of training places in Falkirk
Funding cut will reduce the number of training places in Falkirk

Falkirk Council is reportedly furious the Scottish Government has made cuts to a fund which supports young people looking for work.

The move, which affects local authorities throughout the country, means the number of people in Falkirk allocated to receive skills and training to help them find employment, which would have numbered 452 for 2016/17, now stands at 267 – a reduction of 185 places.

Falkirk Council received a press release from the Scottish Government on February 8, which revealed ministers had decided to slash the number of Employability Fund places by 40 per cent without any prior consultation.

It is understood COSLA is raising the matter with the Scottish Government on behalf of all local authorities which it represents.

A council insider said: “There is considerable anger among local authorities around how this decision was arrived at and the challenging consequences which have to be dealt with as a result.

“We are extremely disappointed to find out about this substantial cut almost two months after the Scottish Government allocated funding to Skills Development Scotland (SDS) in the draft budget, published on December 16 last year.

“At this time SDS was allocated Grant in Aid of £176.1 million to meet its commitments in 2016/17, including the Employability Fund.”

The 40 per cent reduction means Scotland’s total of 15,190 training places available has now been cut to just 9000.

They added: “This decision raises further challenges in delivering employability support locally. An estimated £13.6 million has been removed from local budgets. This will not only have a significant impact on service delivery, but also on local private and third sector training providers.”

The Employability Fund was created in 2013 with the aim of bringing funding streams together to better reflect the needs of unemployed job seekers and improve their chances of getting a job.

For the last two years Falkirk Council has been working in partnership with SDS on the new Employability Fund model, which has enabled greater flexibility in the way funding can target employability issues and unemployment.

At the end of January the Scottish cabinet secretary for skills and training Roseanna Cunningham lashed out at an announcement by the UK Government to slash employability funding to Scotland by £45 million – a reduction of 87 per cent – in 2017.

She said: “I’m disappointed all our ambitions have been fundamentally undermined by the Chancellor’s decision. The 87 per cent cut next year will leave us with a pittance to deliver the changes we want.”

The Falkirk Council insider said: “Just over a week later the Scottish Government implement their own significant cuts to their national employability programme, without any consultation or notice, more than two months after the budget was agreed and in advance of any UK Government cuts to employability.”

Last week the Scottish minister for skills and training said: “The Employability Fund remains a key element of our efforts to boost employment levels in Scotland. As well as offering real training opportunities to people struggling to get a foot on the jobs ladder, improving skills and employability across Scotland will enhance our economic prospects.

“When budgets are so limited it’s important that we do everything we can to squeeze the most benefit from every single penny that we spend.”