Two year delay in spending of Europe funding

Farming industry needs to know what its future outside the EU would look like ahead of the in-out referendum, the NFU's deputy president Minette Batters said.
Farming industry needs to know what its future outside the EU would look like ahead of the in-out referendum, the NFU's deputy president Minette Batters said.
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MILLIONS of pounds in European funding designed to help develop Yorkshire’s economy are lying unspent.

MILLIONS of pounds in European funding designed to help develop Yorkshire’s economy are lying unspent.

The region has been allocated almost £600 million in the latest European Union funding round which began at the start of 2014.

But almost two years in, the UK Government has confirmed not a single penny has been committed to projects in this region.

It has also emerged that millions of pounds from the last round of EU funding for Yorkshire remain unclaimed.

The latest figures from the European Commission show that 13 per cent of the European Regional Development Fund money earmarked for this region in the 2007-13 round has not been spent.

At current exchange rates that equates to around £56 million yet to be claimed.

Projects agreed as part of the last funding round that are up and running can continue to claim until 2017.

The delay in progressing the current round has been linked to the abolition of regional development agencies, which used to take a leading role on EU funding by the last government.

Wrangling over the role of local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), the bodies which replaced them, meant the necessary agreements between the UK Government and the Commission over how the latest tranche of money would be spent were only reached this year.

Yorkshire MEP Timothy Kirkhope said other countries have more “sophisticated approaches” to the way they use European cash.

He said: “We have introduced LEPs, we have introduced enterprise zones, we have introduced various bits and pieces all designed to devolve power and decision making.

“The trouble is it doesn’t quite work yet, they have not bedded in properly. The reason for the delays is the complications and complexities about the way grants are being dispensed.”

Council leaders in Yorkshire are pressing for a change in the way EU cash is managed to help speed up the process and ensure it supports existing economic plans for the region.

Outside London, Government departments take the lead role but Yorkshire authorities want similar powers to the capital to decide which projects receive EU cash.

A spokesman for Sheffield City Council said: “Sheffield City Region is benefitting from a £150m European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) programme to promote the development of our local economy.

“However, the current set-up of the national programme is very centralised, with all decisions made by central Government.

“Sheffield, together with other core cities, has been seeking greater and formalised influence over the use of ESIF funds.

“This is in order to ensure that they are invested wholly in line with the our Strategic Economic Plan and its visions for a prosperous and sustainable economy.”

A spokesman for the Department for the Communities and Local Government confirmed that no projects had yet been allocated cash from the 2014-20 EU funding round..

He said there had been a “good response” to an invitation for potential projects in March.

European money has been used to help hundreds of businesses and create thousands of jobs in Yorkshire.

Projects supported in the last round included Enterprising Barnsley, an initiative to support the creation of new small businesses in the town.

It is credited with helping 320 firms to create 781 jobs and protect a further 174.

The money is also used to help universities carry out research and work with firms to develop ideas and technology that can help the region’s economy.

In the last round, £4.4 million was used to support a York University project to find ways of turning biowaste into profitable products.

Cash from the European Development Fund was also used to help the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, run by Sheffield University to build its Factory 2050 facility which is due to become fully operational next year and is the first of its kind in the country.