High Court quashes government decision on European funding for South Yorkshire

AN MP has won a Parliamentary debate and called for a top-level meeting after a high court ruled a European funding settlement for South Yorkshire was unlawful.

Last year, the government announced EU funding for Sheffield City Region for 2014-2020 would be €203m – much less than other, richer areas, and a worse than expected cut of 61 per cent compared to the last six years.

For months Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey and Yorkshire MEP Linda McAvan have been fighting for a fair settlement and arguing against South Yorkshire’s money being used to ‘top up’ Scotland, which has a far stronger economy.

On Friday the High Court quashed Ministers’ decisions after ruling they were unlawful.

The judgement also confirms that the government’s own estimate of the funding for South Yorkshire is €58m less than the European Commission’s policy intended.

Now Mr Healey is demanding a meeting with the Business Secretary Vince Cable and has secured a Parliamentary debate on 25th February.

The MP said: “The government have proposed cutbacks in European funding much more severe even than our worst fears, and massively deeper than in any other area in the UK.

“The high court has now told the government to rethink the decisions they have taken on this money, which is crucial to helping our economy reach its potential.

“I want to ensure any new decisions stop discrimination against our region, so have requested an urgent meeting to discuss the court’s judgement and put the case for a fair settlement to support jobs and stronger growth in South Yorkshire.”

Ms McAvan joined Mr Healey in meeting Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for the Regions, in Brussels in July last year.

She said: “The European Union has identified South Yorkshire as having fallen behind other UK regions and so should have been entitled to a greater share of EU funding.

“It is an outrage that areas of the UK with more wealth and more business are getting a bigger share than we are and I am delighted that the judge has sent the Government back to the drawing board on allocating the EU funding fairly.”

South Yorkshire’s economy has a GDP of just 84 per cent of the UK average and the government’s allocation as it stands is worth €117 per head. But well-heeled Cheshire and Warrington – which has a GDP of 119 per cent of the average and covers the Chancellor’s constituency – is due to receive €157 per head.

Coventry and Warwickshire would get €254 per head, but the biggest benefit will be felt in the chief secretary to the treasury’s area of the Highlands and Islands. The region will receive €741 per head – over six times more cash than South Yorkshire.

The government has protected Scotland – in the year they vote on independence – Northern Ireland and Wales against more than a 5 per cent cut.

Ministers announced in March they would cushion Scots from “sudden and significant” cutbacks in EU funding by limiting any loss to a maximum 5 per cent. Most of the money to fund this pledge is coming from funding meant for ‘transition areas’ like South Yorkshire.

South Yorkshire has benefited from two rounds of European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) since 2000, contributing to projects such as Sheffield’s ‘Heart of the City’ and train station redevelopments, Barnsley’s transport Interchange, Doncaster’s civic and cultural quarter and Rotherham’s advanced manufacturing park.

The politicians and Sheffield City Region believe methodology behind the allocations is severely flawed and caused unfair and unjustifiable disparities in funding between South Yorkshire and other parts of the country.