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Time to ensure there's a fair share of Euro-funding on offer

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 03, 2012

The new category will   help  overcome the 'cliff-edge' effect where there is a sudden difference in levels of support at   boundaries  such as the River Tamar

The new category will help overcome the 'cliff-edge' effect where there is a sudden difference in levels of support at boundaries such as the River Tamar

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On one side of the Tamar, in Cornwall, European aid is currently worth £1,120 a head.

Move across the river into Torridge and that funding reduces to £118 – just about 10% as much.

Now I am not arguing for Cornwall to receive less. Indeed, the county has already secured another seven years of European funding.

What I want to see is Devon treated more fairly and that is why I have written to all our MPs urging them to support this move.

It would not involve increasing Britain's contributions to the EU. What it would do is cut the cake more equitably.

At the moment EU aid is based on the comparative poverty of each region judged by their gross domestic product or GDP.

Cornwall's GDP is 73% of the European average which is below the 75% qualifying rate for the highest EU aid.

Devon's GDP, including Plymouth and Torbay, is 88% of the European average.

Currently this sees us receiving the same level of funding per head as Brussels and inner London which has a GDP of 327% of the European average. Hardly a level playing field.

The new funding proposals create a third tier of "transition" areas, with GDP between 75% and 90% of the European average, which is why Devon would receive extra benefit.

And that can only be right. At the moment there is a real danger of businesses choosing to set up in Cornwall just because of the disparity in European aid.

And yet Torridge, West Devon, North Devon, the South Hams, East Devon and Torbay all have lower average weekly earnings than Cornwall. Indeed Torridge has the lowest average wages in the UK. In 2011 the average gross weekly pay in Torridge was £333 compared to Cornwall's £409.

Now I want to re-emphasise that I am not criticising Cornwall. The county has serious problems that EU funding is helping to resolve.

But it is my job to speak up for Devon and to do my level best to ensure our county gets its fair share of whatever funding is going.

The new three-tier funding proposals would be an important step in that direction.

It is a fairer system. As I said, Devon now receives the same level of funding per head of population as Brussels and inner London while Cornwall is entitled to the same funding formula as regions in Bulgaria, Romania and southern Greece.

The current system also has safety nets in place to assist regions which have improved their GDP sufficiently to move out of the highest level of support.

Whilst I recognise that regions in this position need extra support to help continue their upward progression, I would like to see all regions with similar GDP grouped together and treated similarly, regardless of their previous status.

I firmly believe that regional policy needs to work for all regions. It is only right that the highest level of support should target the very poorest regions in Europe.

But it is equally important that this does not have a negative impact on areas which are only just above the threshold, particularly when they border a less developed area.

The new category will introduce a more targeted system of funding and help to overcome the "cliff-edge" effect where there is a sudden difference in levels of support at administrative boundaries, such as the River Tamar.

It would also allow more flexibility. There is clear potential for transition regions to have greater freedom in how funding is used.

In Devon, where the county council has aligned many of its economic objectives with those of the Local Enterprise Partnership, greater flexibility in the use of EU funding would allow us to target investment on our local priorities and to support the private sector in delivering sustainable high-value added growth through investment in infrastructure and skills.

The new system would also require lower levels of match funding. The EU is proposing a higher grant rate of 60% for projects – as against the usual 50%. That would obviously reduce the requirement for match funding from national and local sources, helping to stimulate growth and jobs.

As well as Devon, ten other UK regions qualify for the new transition status.

That's more than any other EU country which makes the UK one of the main beneficiaries from this proposal.

For all these reasons I believe every Devon MP – no matter which party – should strongly back these proposals and get behind our campaign.

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  • penniner  |  November 04 2012, 10:08PM

    Leave the EU then problem solved!. I am 46 and never had a vote on the EU. I want us to leave completely.

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  • Stork  |  November 04 2012, 2:42PM

    obserever The UK, or any other country in the EU, can leave the EU, whenever they want. If the respective country's Parliament votes to leave the EU, that's it, they leave. Germany won't leave, because it still wants to be the boss of a Federal Europe, where Germany calls the shots. France never wanted to leave because of the EU Agricultural Policy, which favoured small French farmers, who would not be able to survive if they had to live within the policies that UK farmers are stuck with. However, there have been mutterings amongst the new French Government that France might want to re-negotiate terms with the EU, or even threaten to leave if they don't get a better deal than they have at the moment. Countries like Poland want to stay in the EU, because they're receiving " loads of money" from the EU, far more than they chip in. So, we can leave, if Parliament votes to leave.

  • obserever  |  November 04 2012, 12:57AM

    THe UK CANNOT leave the EU so why moan and complain ? understand it is a long done deal leaving is not an option !!!!!

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  • startbay  |  November 03 2012, 2:21PM

    I think the funding for Devon in particular the Plymouth and east Cornwall area has been most unfair.The plans put forward by Viable re the city airport are good in my opinion,we do not want or need a Heathrow on our doorstep .For the future of this area it has been agreed by many that our communications are holding us back.I believe that the London City style airport is vital and also while we have ferry links to spain and Brittany for mainly leisure use a service to Cherbourg would connect us more easily to the continental markets.If Brittainy ferries are not interested then make enquire to see if other operators are willing .This could start as a basic service and if successful could be improved.It seems strange that everthing is centred on Heathrow or Dover,ensuring a long and sometimes difficult transfer on to Plymouth If we can shout loud enough and make a case and have something realistic to build on then perhaps European funding would be offered.If the investment is put into the Plymouth area bringing new jobs and opportunities then we will find the roads would possibly improve and the railways would get much needed investment,but the City representatives of all walks of life must make a case for further inward investment whether it comes from Whitehall or our partners in Europe.

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  • Stork  |  November 03 2012, 12:44PM

    Of course, if the UK left the EU. There would be £billions available for the likes of Cornwall, Devon and the rest of the UK counties. However, our dull politicians will insist on giving our money away to the EU, £30 odd million EACH DAY, in return for being at the Heart of Europe. What's that all about ? We pay the EU a fortune, for them to spend it as they wish. The EU has never had its accounts passed by auditors due to fraud. What would be the UK publics' response be, if local authorities or even the UK government, couldn't pass audit ? The EU offers us grants, which our local authorities receive humbly, and we basically have crumbs from the EU financial table. I have never met anyone who can prove to me why we remain in the EU.

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