EU cash must stay in region

LIKE it or not, the European Union chose to make regeneration funding available to South Yorkshire for a very simple reason – the area’s economy continues to lag behind the rest of the EU.

This is money that was intended to advance a list of regeneration schemes in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham – communities blighted by above-average unemployment, and an over-dependence on public sector-funded jobs, for 
too long.

However it was never the EU’s intention to allow this money to be diverted from Yorkshire to Scotland, presumably as a sweetener by David Cameron’s government to the Scots ahead of next year’s vote on independence.

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As such, it is encouraging that the EU has – for once – listened to the overtures of local politicians and asked Ministers for an explanation.

After all, it will take South Yorkshire even longer to emerge from the economic doldrums if it does not receive the full tranche of European Regional Development Funding to which it is clearly entitled.

As well as contradicting the coalition’s desire to narrow the North-South divide, the Government’s interference will further skew a funding imbalance which already favours the Celtic nations over the English regions to the irritation of many in these parts.

This is illustrated by the extent to which the Barnett Formula is still used to allocate Whitehall funds; this was a short-term fix cobbled together in the 1970s as those campaigning for Scottish independence attempted to hold Jim Callaghan’s government to ransom. Even Joel Barnett, now a Labour peer, says his mechanism is no longer fit for purpose and that government money needs to be distributed more equitably across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to take account of population changes.

A final point needs to be made. Unlike this area, which is still coming to terms with Yorkshire Forward’s demise, there is already an established Scottish Parliament which is more than capable of lobbying for EU funds. But that should be a matter for Alex Salmond’s administration rather than a Downing Street decision which contravenes Europe’s sound intentions towards South Yorkshire.

Police injustice

IN defence of West Yorkshire Police, public confidence demands that officers are suspended when they become the subject of those misconduct allegations that warrant further investigation.

Yet it cannot be in the public interest for individuals to be suspended on full pay for three years. Such a convoluted process does not benefit the officer concerned – or the person who claims that an injustice has been committed.

Just think how many beat bobbies could be recruited – and crimes solved – if the force, one of five named and shamed over their financial management, had not spent more than £500,000 on salaries for staff who had been suspended.

Like other public sector bodies that have paid out £7.5m to council, police and NHS employees accused of misconduct in the past three years, West Yorkshire Police needs to remember that it has a duty to spend taxpayers’ money wisely – and this extends to resolving disciplinary matters as quickly as possible.

Understandably some cases will be less straight-forward than others to solve, but this should not apply in the case of a junior police community support officer who has been paid more than £65,000 since being suspended more than three years ago.

Given that such delays would not be tolerated in the private sector, it is disappointing – but not surprising – that some public bodies continue to reform their procedures at such a pedestrian pace, even more so when organisations like West Yorkshire Police are repeatedly complaining about a dearth of funds.

As such, its chief constable and crime commissioner – both of whom have been appointed in the past year – should act decisively and ask for these outstanding matters to be resolved promptly, and before their calls for extra resources start to sound hollow.

A key ingredient

MIKE Flower’s recipe for success as one of East Yorkshire’s culinary stars is an unusual one – he was once hanging round on the street corners of Hull, spending his benefits on cheap cider, while he frittered his life away.

Yet, after coming to his senses at the age of 22, he drew inspiration from his grandmother and decided to train as a chef. Now, after winning a top competition, Mike’s story is being used to inspire others.

As well as highlighting the need for young people to have some sort of structure to their lives when they finish school, even those who have little desire to persist with their education, it shows the importance of giving everyone a chance.

Like many of Yorkshire’s Olympians and Paralympians of 2012 who conquered adversity in their personal development, Mike’s blossoming shows that willpower is the key ingredient to any individual – irrespective of their background – fulfilling their potential. It is a lesson that many still need to embrace, particularly those young people who continue to take their benefit entitlements for granted.