Hopes increase that Yorkshire economy could receive European funding boost

European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn
European Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn
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EFFORTS to overturn a massive cut in European funding to help grow Yorkshire’s economy have been given a boost by a top European Union official.

EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn has said the UK Supreme Court’s verdict will need to be taken into consideration when it comes to deciding whether the amount the region will receive over the next six years is fair.

South Yorkshire and Merseyside have been pursuing the UK Government through the courts to try and overturn its decision to take some of the money for economic growth expected to go to poorer parts of England and give a “top-up” to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Yorkshire Post understands the EU Commission is worried about being accused of getting too involved in a domestic political issue but is also “well aware” of the situation facing the North of England.

The EU has to agree the UK’s plans for the money and campaigners in the region had feared they would be rubber-stamped before the Supreme Court had the chance to hear the case. The last EU funding round funded a wide array of projects including the Doncaster Civic and Cultural Quarter and the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Institute. In the next round, which runs until 2020, Yorkshire is expecting to receive around £600m in European cash.

Asked about the issue, Mr Hahn said he was anxious to see progress in negotiations but that the court’s ruling would matter.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “This doesn’t hinder us in negotiating the programmes with the UK, with the Government, because we don’t want to lose any time.

“If there might be a rule which will have an impact on what we are negotiating of course we have to respect it but it is up to the Government to come forward with changes of proposals if there is a need.

“Our interest is in negotiating with the national states about the different programmes. We don’t want to lose any time and of course we will see what is the outcome of this court case.”

EU budget changes meant all parts of the UK were expected to see the money they get to help grow their economies would fall.

But when the UK Government published its plans, South Yorkshire’s funding was set to fall by more than half while for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland the reduction was just five per cent.

Under the proposals, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland would receive Euro 478 per person compared to Euro 117 for South Yorkshire.

Lawyers acting for South Yorkshire and Merseyside will attempt to convince the Supreme Court that the UK Government did not act properly in the way it has allocated.

Yorkshire MEP Linda McAvan, who has been campaigning on the issue with Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey, said: “We simply want a fair deal for our region based on the facts. The proposed government cut to our funding cannot be justified in any way and I am pleased that Commissioner Hahn has heard our concerns, agreeing to await the outcome of the Supreme Court appeal before making any final decisions.”