Councillors on Aberdeenshire Council’s Policy & Resources Committee have discused the future of European funding for council projects and the implications of Brexit.
Two papers were prepared for discussion at Thursday's meeting in Woodhill House. The first outlined the potential implications of the EU referendum results and asked councillors to endorse an action plan for the future. The second report set out in detail exactly what European funding programmes are currently being managed by Aberdeenshire Council.
The first report made clear that a vote to leave the EU would have significant implications for Aberdeenshire Council and the wider region as a whole. It raises questions over the sustainably of funding programmes, and challenge whether the council, and Scotland, should or will continue in future with projects presently funded by European grants.
While there is uncertainty, councillors noted that there is little the council can currently do, other than maintain a watching brief and reporting back on updates. An action plan was agreed which will see the council lobby government as the Brexit process continues and investigate other funding sources.
The second report showed that projects, including the European Social Fund, the LEADER programme and the European Maritime and Fisheries Funding, result in the council managing more than £11.1 million between now and 2020. Some examples of this in practise include:
The European Social Fund grant scheme, where applications are received and distributed on a competitive basis, managed by the Tackling Poverty and Inequalities Group.
The European Regional Development Fund which provides enhanced Business Gateway services throughout Aberdeenshire.
The North Aberdeenshire LEADER programme which facilitates bottom-up community led rural developments.
As a result, officers were instructed to prepare a further paper for discussion, when the implications of ‘Brexit’ on projects such as these becomes clearer. The above action plan will also see future papers considered by committee in 2016 and beyond.
Committee chair and council leader Councillor Richard Thomson said: “The aftermath of the Brexit vote has left a big question mark hanging over the future of European funding for our communities and key sectors in Aberdeenshire, as well over the continued access for our local businesses to the European single market of nearly 700 million people.
"In response, Councillors have today agreed a plan which will see us pushing for answers to our questions, as well as seeking to lobby to mitigate the potential negative impact in Aberdeenshire of the UK-wide decision to leave the EU.
"We hope that government and decision makers at a national level will be as willing to engage as we are on this subject, in the best interests of this council and the people of Aberdeenshire”.