John wins debate to fight for European regeneration funding for South Yorkshire

PARTS of Scotland are to receive at least six times more European funding for jobs, skills and businesses than South Yorkshire.

During a debate he secured yesterday, Wentworth & Dearne MP John Healey accused deputy prime minister and Sheffield MP Nick Clegg of not standing up for South Yorkshire and allowing a “Forgemasters mark II.”

The highlands and islands area of Scotland – where Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has his constituency – is to receive €741 per head compared to South Yorkshire’s €117.

South Yorkshire’s funding for the period 2014-2020 is being cut by more than half while the Government have topped up the pot for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and increased funding for richer areas.

Watch the debate here

Mr Healey said: “In our area, and for the rest of South Yorkshire and for Merseyside, we face cutbacks in European funding that are much more severe even than our worst fears—massively deeper than in any other area in the UK.

“We face a cliff-edge cut in the funding for the new European funding period as compared with the previous ones.

“The European funds are designed to give a boost to the economy of flagging regions. I have to say that it is an outrage that areas of the UK with more wealth, more jobs, more business and more prosperity are also getting more European funding in the period ahead.

“It aggravates our anger to learn that the major factor in this unfair distribution and the cuts that our areas will uniquely take is the Government’s plan to direct top-up funds from South Yorkshire and Merseyside in order to support Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—to limit their losses to 5% when we face cuts of more than 50% in our funding for the next period. There is no logic and no equity in that and we have seen no effort to be even-handed.”

He said the Sheffield City Region and Local Enterprise Partnership were concerned that the potential for boosting economies will be lost.

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 £15 million 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.”

South Yorkshire received more than €400m in the current seven-year European funding programme. The next period will provide €203m for the Sheffield City Region, which includes South Yorkshire, north Nottingham and north Derbyshire, equating to about €117 per head.

Sheffield City Region’s GDP is 84% of the European average. Other areas with higher GDP are to receive more money, including Cheshire and Warrington – where Chancellor George Osborne has his constituency – which has a GDP of 119% of the average and will receive €157 per head.

The Highlands and Islands area of Scotland also has a GDP of 84% but will receive €741 per head – over six times more cash than South Yorkshire.

Mr Healey said: “This decision is unfair and unjustifiable and undermines the very purpose of the European funds.

“Ministers are ripping funds away from South Yorkshire and from Merseyside to top up Scotland and Northern Ireland, where GDP is higher, and Wales, where GDP is at a similar level.

“What has the Deputy Prime Minister been doing for our area? This is Forgemasters mark II. There has been no evidence of concern, and certainly no evidence of influence from the Deputy Prime Minister when this critical decision for Sheffield city region was taken.”

Mr Healey said South Yorkshire had been hit harder by the global financial crisis and the austerity-driven downturn after 2010 and was the fifth poorest region in the UK.

He said he, Merseyside MP Dave Watts and MEPs Linda McAvan and Arlene McCarthy had written to EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn, asking him to review the UK Government’s decision.

Mr Healey called on the Government to commit to use other funding routes to rectify the shortfall.

Responding, business minister Michael Fallon said that, for the current funding period, 2007-2013, South Yorkshire was categorised as a “phasing-in region” – emerging from the poorest regional category and into the mainstream “competitiveness” category.

He said: “The EU funds have been on a declining taper for the entire seven-year period, in order for partners in that area to adjust to a lower level of EU receipts. The highlands and islands, of course, were not on a phasing-out regime; they were on a phasing-in regime.

“South Yorkshire is transitioning. It was a poorer region and is now becoming a wealthier region.