Tuesday, July 29, 2014

News: Rotherham's fight for further funding fails on appeal

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Less money will be available for economic development projects in Rotherham after local authorities challenging the government's reallocation of 50% of South Yorkshire's European funding had their appeal dismissed.

The government last year announced that the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (which includes South Yorkshire along with north Nottingham and north Derbyshire districts) can expect €203m for 2014 to 2020 as part of €6.2bn (£5.3bn) of EU Structural and Investment Funds to boost growth under a simplified "Growth Programme."

In the previous settlement, South Yorkshire received €410m. From 2014-2020 this will be cut to €180m.

The legal challenge focused on the appropriate treatment of the consequences of the former status of South Yorkshire as a "phasing in" region in the 2007-2013 funding period and that this allegedly gave rise to an unfair allocation for South Yorkshire, which is now classified as a "transition region" for 2014-2020.

The High Court rejected these substantive grounds of challenge and said that the methodology adopted by the Secretary of State was lawful and rational. However, the Court quashed Ministers decisions after ruling they were unlawful as they had been taken in breach of the Public Sector Equality Duty under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.

The Government only carried out an Equality Impact Assessment after the decision was taken to protect Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales from a cut of more than a five per cent. The decision meant that the Government had to reconsider its decision, taking into account proper equalities information.

Led by Rotherham Council, the authorities in South Yorkshire and Merseyside appealed against the High Court rejection. That appeal was dismissed last month.

Concluding that the Secretary of State, Vince Cable made the funding decisions lawfully and rationally, Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Lord Justice Floyd said in a report: "In our view, the first and second decisions were plainly concerned with matters of high level policy and economic, social and political judgment. They involved the making of choices as to funding allocations between the regions.

"Even if the only objective was the reduction of the disparities between levels of economic development of regions, that would involve the making of complex assessments of their respective economic circumstances. These are not hard-edged decisions which admit of clear and straightforward answers. But as we have seen, the objectives of allocating the funds so as to achieve "smart, sustainable and inclusive growth" were not limited to narrow issues of economics. They specifically included detailed guidelines on employment policies, a target of improving conditions for research and development and a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing energy efficiency. These objectives could be achieved in many different ways. In our view, this is classic territory for affording the decision-maker a wide margin of discretion.

"We consider that the court should only interfere if satisfied that the decisions were manifestly inappropriate or manifestly wrong."

Despite the fact that South Yorkshire and Merseyside has seen its funding cut by 60%, the judges ruled that the authorities' arguments "do not, whether considered individually or in combination, come anywhere near demonstrating that the first and second decisions were irrational or manifestly inappropriate or manifestly wrong."

European programmes such as the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) have supported projects in Rotherham such as The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), the redevelopment of Rotherham Railway Station, RiDO's business centres (pictured), the award-winning enterprise education programme Rotherham Ready, and business support programmes for high growth companies and enterprising exporters.

Images: RiDO

1 comments:

Business Advisor,  July 30, 2014 at 9:37 PM  

As people who know me well can confirm; I have remarked on many occasions that "The Law and Justice are two entirely separate concepts and on many occasions are incompatible!" Surely areas that have worked to use ERDF monies well should not be penalised to protect areas that already receive high per capita funding.

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