Hammond offers Yorkshire new EU funding promise

CHANCELLOR PHILIP Hammond was accused of tightening the Treasury's grip on millions of pounds of cash from the European Union as he offered Yorkshire new safeguards over the loss of the funding.

Philip Hammond

Mr Hammond told the Conservative Party conference that projects signed off to receive EU cash before Brexit will continue to receive money from the UK Government after Britain leaves.

Yorkshire was due to receive more than £600m in so-called ‘structural funds’ to help the region’s economy in the current EU funding round running from 2014 to 2020.

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Mr Hammond had only previously promised that projects signed off by next month’s Autumn Statement would be guaranteed funding.

His announcement efffectively pushes that deadline back to the moment Britain formally leaves the EU which is likely to happen in 2019.

But critics seized on his insistence that projects must “meet UK priorities” as evidence the Treasury intends to demands schemes help the Government achieve its targets to receive EU cash.

Labour last week promised it would extend EU funding for regions such as Yorkshire “into the 2020s and beyond”.

The Chancellor told the conference in Birmingham he wanted to “offer some additional certainty to British businesses and other organisations bidding to receive EU funding while we’re still a member.”

He continued: “I’ve already guaranteed the funding for projects signed prior to this year’s Autumn Statement.

“Today, I can go further. The Treasury will offer a guarantee to bidders whose projects meet UK priorities and value for money criteria, that if they secure multi-year EU funding before we exit we will guarantee those payments after Britain has left the EU - protecting British jobs and businesses after Brexit.”

Theresa May’s arrival in Downing Street and her dismissal of former chancellor George Osborne has raised questions over his ‘northern powerhouse’ intiative to accelerate growth in the North.

Those doubts were further underlined by the departure of Lord Jim O’Neill, one of the key architects of the Northern Powerhouse, from the Treasury last month.

But today Mr Hammond insisted the Government remained committed to the idea.

He said: “The Northern Powerhouse project takes a visionary approach linking the great cities of the North into a coherent economic entity an interconnected region that raises productivity and delivers growth by making it easier and cheaper for firms and individuals to move goods, people, and ideas.

“And I pledge today, that the Treasury, under my leadership, will continue to drive the Northern Powerhouse project working in partnership with local leaders to see it deliver its potential for people in the North.

“But our ambition isn’t limited to the Northern Powerhouse. We want to create the conditions for success in the North, the South, and everywhere in between.”

Critics claimed Mr Hammond’s new EU funding pledge would increase red tape around the money.

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh, speaking for the Open Britain group, said: “The Chancellor made clear that the Treasury would pick and choose which schemes to support, but we are in the dark about what criteria will be used. European funding is vital for our agricultural, environmental, higher education and science sectors, yet they face potentially massive cuts.”

Mr Hammond also came under fire for not offering longer term guarantees on funding for regions beyond Brexit.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “The Chancellor’s refusal to guarantee vital long-term EU funding is a betrayal of communities across Yorkshire.

“It is deeply worrying that we still don’t know how much the region will receive, or what conditions future projects will have to meet in order to receive funding.

“It should be up to the local authorities who understand their area to decide which projects provide value for money, not bean-counters in the Treasury.”