BARNSLEY Council are set to accept more than £1.7m in funding to help boost employment opportunities for the almost 40,000 residents out of work - with leaders admitting if they ‘do nothing’ the town will ‘continue to lag behind’ the regional and national averages.

Approval is being sought at next week’s cabinet meeting to accept a total of £1.713m from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund - with the council also putting in £354,000 in ‘match funding’ which will be provided through the existing budget.

The council are hoping to deliver improved access for residents to develop their skills and employability through a number of programmes.

They have already worked in partnership with the three other South Yorkshire local authorities - Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham - as well as the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority to determine the approach to deliver the funding.

Approval is now being sought by council bosses to implement the South Yorkshire UK SPF ‘People and Skills’ programme alongside their local authority neighbours to boost employability.

The programme is ‘vital’ to the borough’s economic growth, according to a report - which states that almost 40,000 residents are currently out of work, with approximately 2,000 job vacancies advertised at any one time.

“There is a clear need for additional and targeted employment support in the borough,” it said.

“A total of 71.9 per cent of working-age people are in employment compared to a national average of 75.8 per cent.

“The borough’s comparatively low unemployment rates justify a particular focus on residents who are economically inactive.

“At 25.5 per cent, Barnsley’s rising inactivity rates are one sixth higher than the national average.

“Around 39,800 residents are out of work.

“There is also a local need for in-work support, with 36 per cent of the 28,688 Universal Credit recipients in Barnsley being in work.

“Delivery of the programme is a vital component of local economic growth.

”Currently there are 1,800 to 2,000 average weekly vacancies.

“Meanwhile,one in five economically residents say they ‘want to work’.”

Alternative proposals have also been suggested - but this would mean more than a dozen council workers having their contracts effectively torn up due to lack of funding.

“The ‘do nothing’ approach would mean the borough’s economy will continue to lag behind both the regional and UK average,” the report added.

“This would negatively impact Barnsley residents and the borough’s delivery of the 2030 strategic objectives.

“In addition, the contracts of 20 council employees would cease as there would be no funding available to continue their employment.

“An alternative model with reduced investment could be considered.

“Again, this would see a significant decrease in the number of Barnsley residents supported and would result in a significant reduction of the current staffing resource.”

Council bosses have also stated that the transition to net zero will see an ‘evolution of jobs’ - with the area having one of the highest regional proportions of jobs employed in the low-carbon and renewable energy industry by 2030.

The report added: “While some completely new jobs will become available, larger numbers of workers will need to partly re-skill and their jobs will change in part to accommodate new technologies, and all new and existing workers will need a greater awareness of their impact and the impact of their jobs on the environment.

“The delivery model will include the flexibility to incorporate environmental awareness into all programmes.

“The programme will facilitate opportunities that will be created locally by retrofitting homes with insulation, heat pumps and solar panels. By developing programmes of learning for the green skills sector with local skills providers, this will ensure residents can either retrain or up skill in this sector.”