North East chiefs demand fair share of post-Brexit cash for region
Regional leaders have accused the Government of trying to ‘sneak through’ a watered down replacement for EU funding.
Pre-Brexit, the European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF) allocated more than £437million to the North East between 2014 and 2020.
And with ministers remaining vague on plans for a replacement UK Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF), warnings are growing about a possible cut to the cash on offer.
“When you look at England and you look at the regions that are benefiting from ESIF, the UK SPF, to be quite frank, is not going to support to those levels,” said Graeme Miller, the leader of Sunderland City Council.
“If we are quiet about it, the Government will just sneak through a smaller, weaker, less supportive package of finance, because that is what it intends to do.
“We must continue to press for a full share, as we had, with no damage to the region caused by us leaving the EU and losing those funds.
“The government has to be held to account – I don’t think the Government has any intention to give us pound for pound what we had.”
Cllr Miller was speaking at a meeting of the North East Combined Authority’s (NECA) Economic Development Digital Advisory Board, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.
Overall, UK ‘structural funding’ from the EU was worth about £2.1billion every year, before Brexit.
And while the government has promised to match this, concerns have been raised about possible new criteria for allocations, which may ignore deprivation factors which previously made the North East a big winner from the old scheme.
“This couldn’t have come at a worse time for us as a North East,” said Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, who insisted a priority for the EU funding replacement would be local control over spending.
“The North East would have been set to receive more funding had we remained in the EU and would have been able to continue to invest in skills, in jobs, in projects across the region.
“The Government has promised previously that the North east wouldn’t get any less under the SPF arrangements, but we’re yet to see any real detail or commitment to following through on that promise.”