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Local government today welcomed the government's decision to decentralise the management of£175m a year of Europea...
Local government today welcomed the government's decision to decentralise the management of £175m a year of European Social Fund (ESF) money. From 1997 the Objective 3 ESF programme will be run on a regional basis rather than by sectoral allocations. However, the share taken by government will continue to be handled nationally.

The Local Government International Bureau and the local authority associations have been campaigning for the regional management of Objective 3 ESF on the grounds that it would enable the strategic provision of training and employment measures for the unemployed to be provided at a level closest to the local labour market. This would also prevent duplication of provision and encourage a partnership approach among local training providers in their efforts to help those most at risk from long term exclusion from the labour market.

LGIB chair Alan Lloyd said: 'This decision means that local authorities will have a greater say in the use of ESF for training in each region. Rather than simply controlling the £23m which authorities spend themselves, they will contribute to planning and managing a much larger volume of training. It is a pity that the government has decided to keep its own share of the regional pot.'

In 1994 local authorities' lobbying resulted in the introduction of regional co-ordination groups which for the first time brought training providers from all sectors together to look at the range of provision in their area and their local labour market needs. The DfEE's major move towards the regional model represents the achievement of a long standing goal.

In a letter to sector mangers the DfEE stated that ministers have considered responses to the consultation exercise on the draft plan for Objective 3 1997-99 and the recommendations of a Business Process Re-engineering project. They state that the non government share of Objective 3 funds will be apportioned on the basis of shares for regions rather than for sectors, with selection by open competition at the regional level.

The LGIB and the local authority associations have lobbied for regional allocations and open regional competition for all ESF funds including the government allocation, which represents almost 60% of the total Object 3 budget in Great Britain in the current programme. In the longer term, the DfEE will be working with a view to transferring to government offices the responsibility for processing all approvals and payments which is currently handled by the DfEE's ESF unit for both Object 3 and the regional objectives.

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