Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Government statement on EU funding: what does it mean?

My article in today’s Cornish Guardian looked at central government’s recent announcement on EU funding. It was as follows:

In recent years, I have been in the fortunate position to be involved with some EU funding initiatives in Cornwall and to see a range of regeneration projects brought forward.

From 2011-2015, I was Chair of the Clay Country Local Action Group (LAG), which supported a range of small businesses and community groups with EU funding via the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE). I have since been appointed to the successor South and East Cornwall LAG which covers an area from Summercourt to Saltash.

And last week, I was present at a LAG meeting discussing Community Led Local Development (CLLD) funding, which looks to target investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) towards projects in and around some of Cornwall’s most deprived communities.

But as you would imagine, there has been a great deal of concern about this funding following the vote to leave the European Union.

I was therefore very pleased to see the headlines over the weekend which stated “Government guarantee for post-EU funds.”

But on reading the detail of the statement from the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, I was not sure exactly what had been agreed.

Hammond emphasised the need for “stability and certainty,” while adding that “the government will match the current level of agricultural funding until 2020.” He also confirmed that “structural and investment funds projects signed before the Autumn Statement and Horizon research funding granted before we leave the EU will be guaranteed by the Treasury after we leave.”

At this stage, I am concerned that the statement only guarantees those projects signed off in the next few months. It is unclear what the full impact of this deadline will be for Cornwall, which had been due to receive significant amounts of structural funding through a range of mechanisms.

Ministers from the UK’s devolved administrations were certainly quick to challenge Philip Hammond on his statement.

The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, told the media that the Government’s guarantee only covered “about half of the regional funding due to Wales” and did “not provide the long-term certainty” that was needed.

A representative of the Scottish Government meanwhile described the Government announcement as “a limited guarantee for some schemes for a few short years” which would leave “Scotland hundreds of millions of pounds short.”

At this time, we need greater clarity from central government and their MPs about what the guarantee will actually mean for Cornwall and whether they will agree to safeguard the full extent of funding that would have been received prior to Brexit.

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