The leaders of the region’s five main political parties have written a joint letter to Simon Clarke, the Secretary of State for Levels, Housing and Communities, calling for the European Social Fund (ESF) to be replaced in its entirety.
The ESF improves employment and education opportunities and employs around 1,700 people directly in Northern Ireland.
Party leaders describe the fund as an “integral” part of the local economy and in all our communities, supporting more than 17,000 “of our most vulnerable people”.
The letter is signed by Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Fein, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP, Naomi Long of the Alliance Party, Doug Beattie of the UUP and Colum Eastwood of the SDLP.
“The loss of the ESF program and the current inability to replace ESF funding leaves many ESF-funded projects facing serious uncertainty and potential precipice,” the letter said.
“Some will be forced out of business and their valuable services will be lost to our communities.”
The letter also warns that the loss of the European Regional Development Fund will have a negative impact on the growth of small businesses.
“Furthermore, the loss of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), particularly in the current precarious economic circumstances, will have a negative impact on the growth of small businesses and our transition to a zero carbon economy,” he said. added.
Leaders urged the Conservative Party to honor its manifesto pledge to replace the ESF in its entirety.
“As leaders of the main parties in Stormont, we urge the UK government to honor this commitment and bring certainty and security to the many people who depend on these schemes by replacing the European Social Fund entirely,” he concludes.
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