Taking the fight for regional funding to Brussels

Local Labour politicians John Healey MP and Linda McAvan Euro MP met with the European Commissioner for the Regions yesterday to discuss the government’s proposal to give EU funding for South Yorkshire to Scotland.

South Yorkshire has benefited from two rounds of European Regional Development Funding (ERDF) since 2000, contributing to projects such a 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 EU has granted ‘transition region’ status to South Yorkshire based on its GDP which is 84% of the European regional average. Despite this, the government announced last month that it would be reallocating around 50% of South Yorkshire’s funding to regions such as Scotland which has a GDP of 107%, causing outrage and confusion across the region.

The chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership for the Sheffield City Region, James Newman, joined John and Linda in Brussels to ask the Commissioner to look into the government’s decision, and ask if the current proposals were fair.

Linda said: “To hear that much more affluent areas such as Cheshire in Chancellor George Osborne’s own ‘back garden’ will be allocated 157 Euros per head, compared with South Yorkshire’s 117 euros per head is baffling.

“We would like the European Commission to investigate how the government arrived at this unbalanced allocation of funds, and ask David Cameron to reconsider the proposal.”

John also secured an Adjournment debate in the House of Commons to debate the issue with Tory Minister Michael Fallon who failed to address concerns about the unfair nature of the allocation of funding.

John said: “The Commissioner listened to all our concerns, promised to take a hard look at the government’s plans for allocating this money within the UK and said he would raise our questions with the government before giving approval.

“What the UK government is doing breaks the policy, purpose and principles of EU funding, which is to help regions lagging behind with jobs and growth.”

Commissioner Hahn confirmed that the government’s proposals would be subject to approval from the Commission and that Ministers will have to justify their decision when they submit their final allocations for consideration.

Linda added: “ERDF has been hugely beneficial for this region and for the government to deny South Yorkshire this funding now, at a time when jobs and living standards are being squeezed, is unnecessarily cruel.”