Although it may be tempting to see the EU as faceless bureaucrats located far from British shores, the best way to evaluate EU decisions is to see how they operate on a grassroots level. What exactly have they done for Swindon and Wiltshire?
After an extensive consultation with experts, government officials and local business owners in 2013-14, the European Structural & Investment Fund (ESIF) allocated £78 million for the area. The programme began in 2014 and is due to run until 2020.
The programme has a number of different aspects but its main aims are to aid small and medium-sized enterprises to grow and compete and also to improve people’s skills so that their employment prospects are better.
One important aspect of this funding is to encourage SMEs as the key to reviving the local economy. So far, the programme has helped over 1,500 local businesses to expand and realise their potential. There are 3 levels of support available: start-up and grow (for newly-established companies); Export4Growth and support for the manufacturing sector. There is also £3.9 million of funding for farmers and business in the tourism sector as well as for projects which develop food and drink processing.
Apart from support for SMEs, the programme is keen to encourage innovation. The EU’s £8-million contribution to the Porton life sciences incubator is intended to nurture new innovative talents in the area with the right environment and mentoring. The infrastructure is in place for the innovative2succeed project, and this will be followed by further investments in the digital industry in the last years of the scheme.
The environment hasn’t been neglected. £5 million has been earmarked to ensure a low-carbon economy.
Apart from creating 250 jobs in the area, a further 18,000 local residents have been supported on their chosen career path. The Skills for Growth project has helped to ensure that the local workforce possess the right job skills for the 21st century, especially the young so as to ensure that growth is sustainable into the future.
The Skills for Inclusion project encourages social inclusion by attempting to overcome any obstacles which are a barrier for employment and allow workers to enter the workforce. The project also supports older people who wish to remain in the labour force. The support is intended to offer guidelines and advice for anyone who wishes to improve their job prospects – whether they are jobseekers, the unemployed or the inactive.
There is no doubt that this will help local residents both psychologically and financially. A personal loans direct lender can offer them a helping hand when times are tough with a simple and fast online application. However, this can only be a short-term measure until they’re back on their feet. The main advantage of this EU-funded initiative is that it offers sustainable and long-term growth. Reducing the numbers of unemployed and those struggling will give them a greater income which in turn will increase spending and give a further boost to local businesses.