South Yorkshire leaders accused the Government of a cover-up over an ‘unfair’ decision to slash its share of EU funding by more than 50 per cent.
Sheffield City Region is taking on Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable in a multi-million pound judicial review, arguing he acted unlawfully in the allocation of European Regional Development Fund monies.
As day one of the two-day hearing began, legal teams representing the Local Enterprise Partnership said the reasoning had been ‘shrouded in mystery’.
The decision means Sheffield will get £174 million from a pot of £5.6 billion over the next seven year – significantly less than other less deprived regions and the previous arrangement, which awarded the LEP £395m of funding for the 2007 to 2013 period.
In a move which has been perceived as a devastating blow for South Yorkshire’s growth, Sheffield City Region will get 117 euros per head of population, whereas the Cheshire and Warrington LEP will get 254.
The Local Enterprise Partnership joined forces with Merseyside – which was given similar treatment – to contest what could prove a landmark case and bring the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills into disrepute.
Jason Coppel QC, for Sheffield and Liverpool city regions, said: “We have uncovered elementary mistakes and instances of statistical slight of hand.”
Mr Coppel told the hearing at Leeds County Court it was only after St Helen’s Council submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act that the method used to reach the decision over Sheffield City Region’s funding was revealed.
It also showed Mr Cable had split the UK funding by awarding cash to devolved administrations first, leaving less money for English regions.
Legal representatives for the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation will argue the case for the defence today. A decision is due next week.
n Cash injection to spur job creation: see page 6