Fears replacement for £605m EU cash earmarked for South Yorkshire will go to ‘Tory areas’

MPs fear a much-delayed Government fund to replace EU cash - worth £605m to South Yorkshire - could be merged with other streams in a shake-up which could jeopardise the “lifeline.”

Friday, 6th September 2019, 16:53 pm
Paul Blomfield at the dispatch box.

The Shared Prosperity Fund was announced in 2017 as a replacement for cash set to be lost through leaving the European Union, from 2021.

But a debate in Parliament last week heard there was still no detail on how much it will pay out, to whom and when.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Post-Brexit Funding fears the money will be rolled into the local growth fund.

Boris Johnson. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

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MPs believe that will “create confusion and raise serious doubts about transparency and double-counting.”

EU funds are allocated on the basis of need.

But Sheffield MP, Paul Blomfield, said he feared the Government would give the SPF to “wealthier Tory areas instead.”

He added: “The Government is determined to crash out of the EU in 47 days and claims to be prepared – but they are unable to answer any questions on this issue.

“I’ve simply been pressing for them to say that South Yorkshire won’t lose out, but they’re not even prepared to give that commitment.“Based on previous experience, there’s a real worry that money distributed by the EU on the basis of need will go to wealthier Tory areas instead.“Under this Government, the South Yorkshire economy has shrunk to below 75 per cent of the EU average, and we need the funding to create jobs and support economic development.”

APPG vice-chairwoman Jo Platt, MP for Leigh, Greater Manchester, said EU structural funding was a “lifeline” and a key source of investment after “nine years of brutal austerity.”

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said it was “inexcusable.”

She added: “Three years on from the referendum even the most basic features of the ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’ remain unexplained to businesses, including its objectives, scale and geographic dispersity.

“The government can’t stall any longer.”

Local government minister Jake Berry responded: “Many people have have repeatedly referred to us as being the recipients of EU money. This money belongs to the British taxpayer. It is taken into the EU. It is sliced, diced, and money is taken away, and then it is returned back to the British people, with a whole load of strings attached. We know in this country how better to spend taxpayers’ money.”

A Government spokesperson said: "The government is committed to every part of our country seeing the benefits of Brexit and the opportunities leaving the EU on 31 October will offer.

“We have already announced a £3.6bn Towns Fund and will bring forward plans for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in due course.”