Friday, February 27, 2015

News: Court ruling could cost region £50m

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The decision by the Supreme Court to reject the appeals of local authorities battling the government over the way it decided how millions of EU money would be distributed could cost South Yorkshire £50m in funding to support jobs and economic growth.

In 2013, the government 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.

Led by Rotherham Council, a legal challenge ended this week when the points of appeal were rejected by four votes to three in the Supreme Court, the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases.

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Yorkshire Euro MP Linda McAvan and Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey have been campaigning with local authorities to challenge the Government's proposed cuts since Business Secretary Vince Cable announced his intentions in June 2013.

Linda McAvan MEP said: "To hear that three out of the seven Supreme Court Justices believed that South Yorkshire has lost out unfairly through a flawed allocation process, with one Justice describing the Government's cuts to South Yorkshire as "manifestly inappropriate" is galling."

The Labour members point to the court reports that one Lord changed his mind towards the end of the decision making process, demonstrating just how close the local authorities came to overturning the Government.

John Healey MP said: "Linda McAvan and I have led the campaign to protect South Yorkshire from these unfair and unjustifiable government cuts. We went to the European Commission in 2013 to make them aware of our concerns and have taken our case to government Ministers too.

"In the last weeks of this Parliament, the government have got away with doing damage to our region that will be felt years from now. They may have won on a point of law, but the government's decision to divert £50m of funding from our area to richer parts of the UK remains an outrage."

The European funding is a key part of delivering the ambitious Growth Plan developed by the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). However, having submitted a strategy for how it intends to use the funding, the EU does not recognise LEPs, the government's drivers of economic development, as decision making bodies. Central government is likely to have the final say on how the money is spent, a situation described by Eric Pickles MP as a "dog's breakfast."

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