West Country MPs urge government to back ‘transition zones’ to secure vital EU funding for Devon and Somerset - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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West Country MPs urge government to back ‘transition zones’ to secure vital EU funding for Devon and Somerset

Sunday, 9 December 2012
L-R Ben Bradshaw - MP for Exeter, Alison Seabeck - MP for Plymouth Moor View, Liz Waugh - Chief Executive of the Heart of the South West LEP, Nick Harvey - MP for North Devon & Adrian Sanders - MP for Torbay (Photo: Nick Harvey MP)Nine members of the UK parliament representing Devon and parts of Somerset have this week handed a letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron in which they urge him to support plans for a series of "transition zones" where European money is poured into regions in economic need, with both counties likely to qualify.

If approved, transition zone funding could be worth around £2.6 billion to the UK.

The move comes amid fears Devon and the other counties in the region are missing out while Cornwall continues to receive millions of Pounds of EU funding. Two seven-year investment programmes – Objective One followed by Convergence – will have pumped close to £1 billion of taxpayers' money into Cornwall between 1999 and the end of next year.

In March, official figures from the European Union’s statistical body Eurostat, revealed that the Gross Domestic Deposit Product (GDP) of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly's was 73.2% of the European average in 2009. This meant that the region remains poorer than parts of Romania, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria and qualifies for continued European Regional funding.

However, across the Tamar, Devon's output was at 88.1%. But the letter handed to PM Cameron notes that because of "anomalies" in EU statistics, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay have been lumped into the same category as much-more- affluent London and Hamburg. "(Transition funding) will also tackle the economic 'cliff-edge' where adjoining areas such as Devon ... receive only a tenth of the development assistance that neighbouring Cornwall gets,” it says.

One of the signatories, Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon Nick Harvey, said in a statement: "transition funding would give a huge boost to economic growth in Devon and Somerset, where eight of our constituencies are now in the bottom 15% for lowest wages in Britain compared to three Cornish constituencies. The Heart of the South West LEP has come up with a prospectus championing the best delivery of EU transition funding, so we are ideally placed to target this vital funding at the most important local priorities – rather than the less effective top-down Whitehall route."

Ben Bradshaw, the Labour MP for Exeter, added: "The Prime Minister currently has a real problem with a stagnant economy and needs to recognise the growth a 'transition zone' for Devon would bring."

The following West Country MPs signed the letter: Ben Bradshaw (Labour, Exeter), Geoffrey Cox (Conservative, Torridge and West Devon), Nick Harvey (Liberal Democrat, North Devon), Anne Marie Morris (Conservative, Newton Abbot), Tessa Munt (Liberal Democrat, Wells), Adrian Sanders (Liberal Democrat, Torbay), former MEP Neil Parish (Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton), Alison Seabeck (Labour, Plymouth Moor View) and Dr Sarah Wollaston (Conservative, Totnes).

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