4:48pm Friday 6th May 2011
IT was a touch ironic to read Labour MEP Stephen Hughes’ comments in The Northern Echo (Echo, May 3) about the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). He claimed that the region is about to have £180m of European money snatched away. This is disingenuous on several levels.
Where does Mr Hughes think that the ERDF money from Brussels comes from in the first place? It comes from taxpayers who contribute billions to Europe every year and we get a fraction of that back in ERDF with countless strings attached.
Let’s also not forget, it was Labour MEPs like Mr Hughes who wanted to increase our contribution to Brussels and opposed Conservative MEPs who wanted to freeze it.
It is a little bit rich for Labour to crib from the sidelines about this Government’s handling of the country’s finances and demand cast iron guarantees, in view of its horrendous legacy.
Due to the financial irregularities in the administration of the ERDF by Labour, we were left with a bill for more than £150m to pay back to Europe to be picked up by taxpayers. We should also never forget that every day in this country taxpayers have to stump up £120m to pay for the interest on Labour’s debt. That is money which could go towards hospitals, schools, police or regional development, but, in the end, it disappears into thin air and we see absolutely no return for it.
This Government has already announced two enterprise zones for the North-East which will help businesses and a £1.4bn regional growth fund (RGF). Many of the bids to this fund may also be eligible for ERDF money as well.
Indeed, in the very first round of distributing money from the RGF, the North-East secured the highest number of awards, with 14 companies sharing £56m. ERDF money has always had to be match funded by the private and public sectors. The North–East will continue to be eligible for ERDF money on that basis.
Martin Callanan, North-East Conservative MEP.
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