European funding and a distinct lack of localism

The next European programme is currently under development and there is a real simple principle at stake which could have a huge financial impact upon the north west of England (in fact the north as a whole).

I am not an expert on European funding but will attempt give you the basics of what is going to be a battleground for the region with Westminster over coming months.

The amount of money allocated to the UK through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is based upon deprivation, this means that the amount that is allocated to the UK is given because of the deprivation within the regions. Traditionally this was then managed and distributed through the regional agencies – government offices and the regional development agencies – at different times over the years.

Now the regional agencies have gone, the government has centralised the process for delivering ERDF while retaining the ‘local’ control through the cleverly named local management committee (this operates at the scale formally known as regions). We are in a sense muddling through the final phases of the current programme while looking at what structures should be in place for future programmes.

Now one might assume that the government would want to give more local control over ERDF – it would be befitting of a government committed to localism and also, as this is headed up by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) – spearheaded by Mr Decentralisation himself, Eric Pickles, you would expect nothing less – but you couldn’t be more wrong.

It would appear that as the UK is a member state of the EU, that England can be classed as a region for the purposes of spending ERDF in the next round. This doesn’t seem to sit comfortably with the EU but ultimately there seems little they can do about it.
 What this means for ERDF is that the money brought into the country due to deprivation in areas such as the north west can be spent anywhere within England. This means a staggering €756m (last programme figure) could be diverted from the NW and spent in affluent parts of the south east if the government believed that would generate the growth it desires.

This issue is big enough to garner support from across the political divides in the north west and should concern all sectors as well. It is vital we all make our displeasure clear – to councillors, to MPs and to the European Parliament. This money should be used to support the north west economy, it should help in rebalancing the economy as we start to climb out of recession.

Most of all we must make DCLG concede that this is a policy missing the point on fairness, on decentralisation and accountability, the themes that underpin coalition policy.
 There is time to rectify this matter and government can show it’s in listening mode: we had just better make sure it hears us.


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Jem Woolley
Jem Woolley
12 years ago

Indeed, and there is currently a DLC select committee looking into the operation of the ERDF programme. One of the questions is whether the funds could be “spent more effectively by repatriating ERDF to the Government in London”. You can make submissions till 12th April. Google: “erdf select committee”

Lorna Prescott
Lorna Prescott
12 years ago

Hi Richard

This sounds oh so familiar. It’s what happened at a local level with NRF (Neighbourhood Renewal Fund) and no doubt many other funding streams under the last government. Dudley, where I work, just scraped in to the 88 local authority areas which received NRF. That was because one of our wards had deprivation indicators which nudged us in to the list. But the £1.5m (or whatever it was) NRF was spent across the borough, to the ongoing frustration of residents of the ward which enabled the borough to receive the funding. The issue you raise is very worrying, as I’ve seen how easily those in power reallocate resources to suit their agendas. Maybe areas outside the NW might stand by you too, in solidarity. Let us know if we can do anything practical in an attempt to influence.

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