Monday, April 24, 2006

After Objective One

The IPPR has released a new report on what the UK should be doing with the next generation of European Structural Funding, once the current Objective One programme ends. South Yorkshire has had the (yet to be fully quantified) benefit of Objective One since 2000, as has Merseyside (for the second consecutive time), and some of the Celtic fringes. From 2007, South Yorkshire and Merseyside will lose the bulk of their funding, thanks in part to European expansion since the last round. The expansion also means that there's unlikely to be further ESF money for the wealthy UK after this round, so this is, as the IPPR says, 'last orders'.

From the IPPR press release, the new funding for 2007-2013 breaks down thus:
Total UK share of the EU Structural Funds: £6.5 billion.
Convergence objective: £1.8 billion: replaces Objective 1. Only Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly; West Wales and the Valleys; and Scotland’s Highlands and Islands are eligible. No major urban area will benefit – a change from 2000-2006, when both Merseyside and South Yorkshire had Objective 1 status.
Competitiveness and Employment programmes: £4.3 billion. This covers all other areas of the UK, replacing the old Objectives 2 and 3. Merseyside and South Yorkshire will receive ring-fenced funding of £310m and £275m, about one-third of their 2000-2006 EU allocations. The distribution of the remaining £3.5 billion has not yet been decided.
Co-operation programmes: £0.4 billion. This covers cross-border collaboration.
These funds will be spread over seven years, equivalent to around £900 million each year for the whole of the UK. Domestic spending on enterprise and economic development alone amounted to £4.7 billion in 2004-05 (HM Treasury, 2005).

The IPPR's Centre for Cities recommends that the uncommited £3.5 billion be concentrated on city-regions, particularly those away from the affluent (on aggregate) and over-developed South East -
it is the big city-regions outside London – Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Tyneside and Glasgow – that can most effectively use limited EU resources to deliver a step-change in economic growth. investment, enterprise, innovation, skills and employment.

Sensible enough, even though the idea of city-regions has yet to win many admirers in the regions rather than the cities - such as Halifax and Calderdale, where the councillors seem to bristle at being made to seem subordinate to Leeds. And given the IPPR's traditional closeness to New Labour, I wouldn't be surprised to see these recommendations being carried through to some greater or lesser extent.

A pdf of the full IPPR report can be downloaded here.

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