Doubts over Yorkshire’s EU funds

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COUNCIL leaders fear millions of pounds earmarked for Yorkshire could be swallowed up by the Treasury amid the fallout from Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

Ministers are expected to announce shortly that projects already in line to receive EU funding will not miss out as a result of the referendum decision.

But council leaders are increasingly concerned the announcement will not guarantee that regions will get the rest of money they are supposed to receive if it has not been allocated to specific schemes.

With the current EU funding round running from 2014 to 2020, the majority of funding has yet to be promised to particular projects and it is feared the Treasury will use uncertainty over Brexit as cover to hold on to it.

Yorkshire has historically been one of the English region’s to receive a large share of EU funds designed to help grow the economy and was supposed to be given £661m in the current round.

Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Communities and local economies have become increasingly reliant on what EU funds can achieve for them.

“Councils have used EU funds to help new businesses start up, create thousands of new jobs, roll out broadband and build new roads and bridges.

“Losing any of this vital money over the next few years would be a real blow for local economic growth and communities.

“It is important for the Government to end the current uncertainty and guarantee that local areas will receive all of the EU funding they have been allocated by 2020, regardless of whether decisions over which projects it should be spent on have been made or not.

“This is essential to avoid essential growth-boosting projects stalling and local economies across England being stifled.

“An urgent government commitment to protect all of this funding is imperative so local areas can get on with the vital task of creating jobs, building infrastructure and boosting growth.”

At the height of the referendum campaign Vote Leave the official ‘out’ group, issued a pledge signed by a string of senior political figures promising areas like Yorkshire would not lose out from Britain’s departure from the European Union.

The letter said that the savings Britain would make from leaving the EU would mean there was “more than enough money to ensure that those who now get funding from the EU - including universities, scientists, family farmers, regional funds, cultural organisations and others - will continue to do so”.

Three of the signatories, Boris Johnson, Chris Grayling and Priti Patel are now in Theresa May’s cabinet and are under growing pressure to deliver on their pledge.

Earlier this month, Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis said it would be a “huge breach of trust” if promises made on regional funding during the referendum campaign were not honoured.

Frustration among council leaders has been exacerbated by the lack of local control over the way EU funds are spent.

While recommendations are made at a local level over which projects are supported, the Government has the final say further slowing the process.

While the question of Britain’s contribution to the EU budget is a highly contested one, council leaders in Yorkshire are already pressing the UK Government to give any money saved as a result of leaving to the region rather than retaining it in Whitehall to be dished out by the Treasury.