Tuesday, August 26, 2014

News: EU funding fight could go to Supreme Court

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Local authorities battling the government over the way it decided how millions of EU funding was allocated have been given the chance to take their appeal to the Supreme Court.

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 in June when the judge decided that, due to the complex nature of the funding, Vince Cable should be afforded a wide margin of discretion and that the courts should not interfere.

The Court also refused permission to appeal but representatives escalated the case to the Supreme Court which has granted permission to appeal.

The leaders of the local authorities in South Yorkshire are now considering whether to proceed with the appeal alongside Merseyside. If they do, the case is set to be heard in October.

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

Images: Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust

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