The North East benefits from millions of pounds in European funding which goes to support projects around the region. These projects create jobs and grow our economy. A debate in the European Parliament is set to reveal that the UK Government is in danger of putting those funds at risk by failing to agree a framework on how they will be spent with the European Commission. One of the key issues is a failure of the UK Government to adequately explain and secure the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships. The Government has asked each of the 39 LEPs to write local European Funding strategies and has notionally allocated each of them a funding allocation. However it has crucially failed to provide them with the appropriate delegated powers available to fulfil their expected role in the eyes of the Commission.
The next round of European Structural and Investment Funds is worth £724m to the region between now and 2020. The current funding programme has invested in projects such as the Hartlepool Growth Hub, the Teesside Advanced Manufacturing Park, the Consett Business Park, the Vaux site redevelopment in Sunderland, The Core Building at Science Central in Newcastle, and the Northumberland Rural Growth Network.
The programme should have been agreed in principle by now but the likelihood is that it will be delayed until late 2015. That will mean there will be a gap in European funding for the region for the first time since we joined the EU. The issue affects England as elsewhere in the UK European funding is devolved to the relevant Assemblies and Parliaments. However, a hold up in agreeing the governance in England will hold up the whole UK allocation and therefore affects Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP said “European funding is absolutely vital to the region. Any delay in the UK Government agreeing the programme with the Commission could jeopardise a lot of projects in the North East. A gap in European funding being available could force projects to close and investment to stall. It would be a body blow to the region. The Government has shown their colours when it comes to what they think about Europe but this money has the North East’s name on it and they need to act now to make sure that we get it. We need the jobs and we need the investment.
Paul Brannen MEP said “When I go out and about around the region I see the benefits that European Funding brings and how important it is to the region. I was up at the Offshore Renewable Energy Centre at Blyth recently and we have world class facilities there in no small part due to the European funds. The Government is putting investment in our region at risk and we’re calling on them to sort this out.