MINISTERS have quietly taken control of the way hundreds of millions of pounds will be spent in Yorkshire over the next five years, it has emerged.
The majority of final decisions on how to spend around £600 million of European money designed to help grow the Yorkshire economy will have to be rubber-stamped in Whitehall rather than taken locally.
Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), bodies which bring councils together with business in an area, were expected to take the leading role.
But it has now emerged that LEPs will only have an ‘advisory’ role and Government officials overseen by Ministers will have the final say although the Greater London Authority will have more independence.
The Yorkshire Post learned last year of concerns within the European Commission that the UK did not have in place a proper system for deciding which projects should get help in the current funding round which runs until 2020.
Regional development agencies, such as Yorkshire Forward took the lead in the last EU funding round but they were abolished by the Coalition.
In a joint statement, Yorkshire MEP Linda McAvan and Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey who have campaigned on EU funds, said: “This is unacceptable and shows a tremendous lack of foresight from the Government.
“They got rid of Yorkshire Forward almost overnight without thinking through the implications for European funding, which has already delayed the start of the current funding programme.”
The EU money is designed to help the economy through investment in roads, broadband, university facilities and support for business.
The change in the Government’s approach was uncovered by the Local Government Association which is now campaigning for it to be reversed.
Local Government Association chairman Coun David Sparks said: “This decision could be harmful to growth and employment prospects and risks stifling vital local projects.
“English towns and cities should be given the same powers that are offered to London and other European cities and regions.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government has not yet responded.