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Hands off our Euro funding

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 10, 2012

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Devon should continue to receive European funding so that it is not put at a disadvantage to neighbouring Cornwall, a Westcountry delegation has told officials in Brussels.

Representatives from local authorities in Devon joined those from other regions in receipt of transition funding to lobby for its continuation when European budget meetings are held next month.

Delegates from Cornwall also attended to press for greater freedom from UK government controls on how European funds are administered.

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have already secured another round of higher-level funding after figures earlier this year revealed that its GDP is 71.9% of the European average – below the 75% threshold that sees the area in line for seven more years of help, worth an estimated £410 million.

A category of regions "in transition", which have a GDP between 75% and 90% of the EU average, stand to get funding but not on the same scale.

Devon has previously qualified for this transition funding, which has meant that poorer parts of the county such as Torbay and North Devon have received European funding aimed at boosting their economies.

Devon's output stands at 86.5% but with most European countries now in prolonged recessions and expensive bail out programmes required by countries such as Greece and Portugal there is massive pressure on the next European budget.

This has led to talk of an uneven playing field between Devon and Cornwall and fears that businesses – particularly those based in poorer areas such as North Devon – could be tempted to cross the Tamar in search of additional grants and business support.

"There is a stark contrast between Torridge and Cornwall," said Councillor Will Mumford, Devon County Council's cabinet member for economic regeneration and strategic planning.

Currently, it is estimated that Convergence funding gives Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly an economic uplift of £1,120 per head, with Devon at its current level of transition funding receiving £118 per head.

There are also concerns that, even if transition funding is maintained, there could be changes in the way it is distributed, with a proposal to give the UK government a greater role in allocating the money.

Mr Mumford warned that this could also see the South West miss out.

"We have seen with the Regional Growth Fund that the South West does extremely poorly while a huge amount of funding goes to the North when there are pockets of deprivation in the South West that are just as bad," he said. "We need to be much better about banging our own drum."

The Westcountry delegation yesterday met with European politicians and the Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn, to lobby for continued support for transition areas.

When the representatives return, there are plans to lobby UK politicians to press the case for continued support for Europe – despite competing domestic priorities.

"We need to transfer the focus to UK politicians to make sure that they really understand the scale of the fiscal cliff that will exist between less developed regions and the rest of the country," said Mr Mumford.

"Everyone understands the extreme fiscal pressure, but you're not going to cut your way out of recession – you have to invest to grow as well."

Cornwall Councillor Edwina Hannaford said she had lobbied for a reduced role for government departments such as Defra and the Department for Work and Pensions in the administration of European funds for the Duchy.

"Cornwall is in a unique position with opportunities and challenges," she said. "We have vast experience of delivering structural funds – let us get on with it."

South West MEP Graham Watson said: "It is important for the UK government to recognise that European funding is important to areas like Cornwall and Devon and that the more the Prime Minister talks about wanting to reduce EU funding, the more we are risking and damaging the many successful schemes in our area."

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  • albru  |  October 12 2012, 10:59AM

    One ironic thing here is that Tories and LD have been in charge of most of last 100 years with virtually no aid at all, but the guy who got the EU to take the areas demands seriously was the late and little lamented Tony Blair. Lot of good it did his party though!

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  • realityzone  |  October 11 2012, 5:04PM

    Josdave is entirely right. If we could cease handing vast sums to the EU to fund its bureaucracy we could better fund our own regions. The money is leached away to an organisation whose financial accountability is so bad that it cannot be successfully audited, how did we get into this mess?

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  • nick113  |  October 11 2012, 11:54AM

    @Taxman100. Thanks for your comments. Yes, the existence of a lunatic fringe in Cornwall is certainly one of the negatives. Mercifully absent in Devon, where Devonians and incomers get along very well.

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  • Truro_England  |  October 11 2012, 10:12AM

    "Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have already secured another round of higher-level funding" But yet a few crazy nationalists want to distance themselves from central government, But they still keep the bugging bowl out and take a few quid.... Cornwall would go it alone?? yeah right with what? potatoes.

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  • Taxman100  |  October 10 2012, 4:58PM

    2ladybugs. I agree. That's what happens to ones mind when one gets older, and one has to keep swatting GNats and at the same time avoid the magical activities of the 'cloak of invisibility'! Did you know Scientists have been able to reflect/deflect/refract light in such a manner that an item which is there appears not to be - 'the cloak of invisibility'! As you were too kind to say, 'Mad as the Hatter' and Cornish to boot!

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  • 2ladybugs  |  October 10 2012, 4:05PM

    It's quite funny, it makes you look as if you are talking to yourself, ha!ha!ha!. They say it's the first signs ;(( ps I have never read one single Harry Potter novel so if I knew what you were talking about I would probably agree :)))

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  • Taxman100  |  October 10 2012, 3:59PM

    2ladybugs. You have been reading too many Harry Potter novels. It's just the 'cloak of invisibility' conjuring up its magic. JKR has a lot to answer for!

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  • 2ladybugs  |  October 10 2012, 3:04PM

    @Taxman100 Yes I quite agree with your comment @12.33. I see my comment has become invisible:((

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  • Taxman100  |  October 10 2012, 1:51PM

    Nick123. I'm a Cornishman, yet I have to agree with your sentiment! I would add in mitigation that Devon has one great advantage over Cornwall - it does not have to contend with a group a petty minded Nationalists; most of whom seem to have originated in Scotland, Wales, Liverpool, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who want to 'speak in tongues', dress up as imaginary Celts, and attempt to drive the County back into the Dark Ages! Oh, yes, and wish to say they receive funding from Europe, rather than tell the truth it came, after being recycled a bit, from the dastardly UK (English) Government!

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  • josdave  |  October 10 2012, 1:25PM

    For every pound we get from the EU we have paid £2 into the bottomless money pit that is Brussells. The sooner we get out the better off we will be and I for one don't believe those who say we can't afford to get out it's more likely we can't afford to stay in paying millions a day for signing away our sovereignty. Oh for the days when we could control our own fishing, agriculture and borders. Now we are being told thousands are leaving Spain because of the eurozone mess, that was a disaster from day one which the Lib Dems would have had us in, and coming here. Thanks to that most undemocratic EU we can't refuse any EU citizen entry to the UK in spite of the fact that this island is overcrowded and can't provide employment ( by that I mean full time not part time or seasonal jobs) for those already here. As for the referendum that will not happen because all three parties want us to stay in. Just look at what happened when a petition of 100,000+ signatures had to be debated. the whips came out and MPs of all three parties toed the line and threw it out.

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