Fife Council has slammed the Scottish Government for cutting a fund which supports young people looking for work.
The move, which affects all Scottish local authorities, means the number of people in Fife allocated to receive skills and training to help them find employment, which would have numbered 1187 for 2016/17, now stands at 700 – a reduction of nearly 500 places.
The council received a press release from the Scottish Government on February 8, which revealed ministers had cut the number of Employability Fund places by 40 per cent without any prior consultation.
Cllr Lesley Laird, depute leader and executive spokesman economy and planning, said: “At a time when Scotland is needing to up its game in relation to skills and training this is quite simply one of the most short term decisions I have come across.
“Coupled with the 154,000 cut to college places you just have to wonder where the skilled workforce that business and industry needs is going to come from.”
Fife Council had invested £9m in employability programmes, including apprenticeships within businesses, a Community Works programme targeted to those furthest from the job market and ‘Rising Stars’ which specifically aimed to raise employment prospects for looked after children.
“It’s a blow to us and a blow to the 500 people who are now not going to get a place because of lack of funding,” said Cllr Laird.
“My argument is it is all about choice. Yes, we’ve got financial challenges but if we want to grow our economy we need a skilled workforce. If you can get people that are out of work into work, the benefits are huge.
“It’s the route out of poverty and, for me, that makes economic sense.
Cllr Laird also criticised the Scottish Government’s handling of the news.
“This is a behaviour that, frankly, we’ve dealt with before. We’ve heard all this rhetoric about positive discussions and here’s another example of ‘take it or leave it’”.
The Employability Fund was created in 2013 with the aim of bringing funding streams together.
Last week Roseanna Cunningham, Scottish minister for skills and training said the fund remained “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.”