Lewer: Give local government more say in EU funding decisions

02-Jul-2015 @ 10:0

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The Conservative spokesman in the European Parliament on Regional Development, Andrew Lewer MBE MEP, has used his speech at the LGA Conference in Harrogate to call for greater local-decision making in the delivery of EU funds.

With much of the legislation implemented by local government in the UK originating in the EU, Mr Lewer believes it is vital that local authorities continue to bring their local knowledge and experience to the table when it comes to deciding how, where and when EU regional development money is spent.

Speaking at the Local Government Association's annual conference in Harrogate, the East Midlands MEP highlighted the commitment last year from Lord Ahmad, Minister for Communities and Local Government responsible for European programmes, to significant local engagement in the local delivery arrangements for EU regional funding.

This was a commitment that Conservative MEPs lobbied for, alongside the LGA.

However, complex EU funding rules meant that only the Greater London Authority could achieve so-called ‘Intermediate body’ status – giving it a direct role in decision-making on local projects.

To ensure that investment flowed to local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) as fast as possible, the UK opted to offer them so-called "key advisory status", a purely advisory rather than decision-making role.

Mr Lewer, alongside fellow LGA Vice-President and Conservative MEP, Julie Girling, lobbied for, and won, an important commitment to a full review of that status decision by March 2016.

With that deadline fast approaching, and the UK-EU Partnership Agreement and Operational Programme finally given the thumbs up by the European Commission last week, Mr Lewer is calling for that review to be both thorough and timely.

He said:  “Irrespective of where you stand on UK membership of the EU, regional development funding makes up one third of the entire EU budget - a huge slice of a cake that UK taxpayers have contributed to.
“We are therefore backing the LGA’s call for intermediate body status for LEPs and local authorities - or at the very least ‘advisory status plus’ - when it comes to the Growth Programme for England. This will help to ensure that local people's priorities are addressed."

Meanwhile, Ms Girling added: “We need to ensure that when money returns to the UK it is well spent. One way of doing this is by ensuring strong local input from our LEPs and local authorities when it comes to decision-making and local project delivery."
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