Tuesday, July 2, 2013

News: MPs debate cut to region's EU funding


Opposition MPs are "seriously considering" asking for a judicial review on how the government is allocating new European Union funding, plans described by local Wentworth and Dearne MP, John Healey as "outrageous and unjustifiable."

Mr Healey raised the issue in Parliament this week after 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 current settlement, South Yorkshire receives €410m. From 2014-2020 this will be cut to €180m.

MPs in areas such as South Yorkshire and Merseyside see the government topping up money going to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so they don't face cuts of more than five per cent, even though some English economies are weaker than that of Scotland or Northern Ireland. The local MP asked for a review of the allocations to South Yorkshire and Merseyside and a commitment to use other funding routes to rectify the shortfall.

During the debate, Mr Healey said: "Firstly, the relative rise in prosperity in South Yorkshire anticipated at the start of the period has not happened as we were hit harder than many other areas by the global financial crisis and the austerity-driven downturn after 2010.

"Secondly, the profile of the spend each year during the seven-year period has been broadly equal and not sharply declining towards the end of the period.

"Thirdly, unfortunately, it remains the case that only three regions in the UK are poorer than Merseyside and only four regions, including Merseyside, are poorer than South Yorkshire.

"I hate making the case in those terms because I want to talk about the new businesses, the jobs programmes, the skills base, the investment plans and the economic potential of our area, but that is the argument that the Government are using, so that is the argument that I must counter."

Michael Fallon, Minister for Business and Enterprise, could not explain why South Yorkshire was seeing a cut by half but areas of Scotland and Wales will get 95% of the previous amount but explained that due to South Yorkshire having "transition" status and moving towards becoming a competitive region, then European funding would taper off.

Mr Healey added: "We know how to use European funding in South Yorkshire, we know how to use it well, and we have firm plans for its use in the future.

"The Advanced Manufacturing Park on the edge of Rotherham would not be there without support from European funding, and the nuclear advanced manufacturing research centre and the knowledge transfer centre in Rotherham would not be there without £15m from the ERDF.

"We have plans for the future. We can put the money to good use, and that will include support for the city deal and for 4,000 extra apprenticeships throughout South Yorkshire."

John Healey MP website


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