Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson
this week joined with a delegation of Councillors from Cornwall Council to the European Parliament to secure future European funding for the region and lobby for additional freedom from the rules on how it must be spent.
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have already secured another seven-year round of higher-level funding after figures earlier this year revealed that its GDP remains below the 75% threshold. This is expected to be worth an estimated £410 million to the county.
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's output stands at 86.5% so qualifies for this transition funding and has led to talk of an uneven playing field between Devon and Cornwall.
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.
This has prompted fears that businesses could be tempted to cross the Tamar in search of additional grants and business support and 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.
"Objective one and recently Convergence has been instrumental in providing the sort of funding required to invest in superfast broadband, new business units, improved road infrastructure and retraining people who may have lost their job or did not leave education with the right qualifications. And I will be fighting tooth and nail in Brussels to ensure that same funding continues to be drawn down,
” Sir Graham said
"It is important for the UK government to recognise that European funding is important to areas like Cornwall and Devon. The more the Prime Minister talks about wanting to reduce EU funding, the more we put at risk the many successful schemes in our area."
Liberal Democrat Cornwall Councillor Edwina Hannaford
, who also chairs a panel on Cornwall Council on European funding in Cornwall post 2013, said
she has 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 ; we have vast experience of delivering structural funds – let us get on with it
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