Conservative MEPs act to prevent Labour cronyism on European aid

The Rt. Hon. Sir Robert Atkins MEP, Conservative spokesman on Regional Policy and speaking on behalf of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, has heavily criticised Labour for its attitude to the way European Regional Aid is awarded so that it goes to their cronies in the regions rather than the intended deprived areas. He also warned of the impact such changes on the quality of projects chosen and the effect it could have on Council Tax bills.

Tabling amendments to Structural Funds - Cohesion Fund Co-ordination and Regional Policy in Action Report, Sir Robert said:

"Labour are cooking the books. They have deliberately meddled with the criteria which the Commission drew up. This money was originally intended to help areas of high unemployment or areas where traditional industry and agriculture are in decline. Because Labour has demanded that additional criteria are applied, the help will go to different areas. We already know that funds have been lost to East Lancashire, West Cumbria and parts of Cheshire. The areas where help is really needed will now lose out because the money will go to Labour's cronies instead."

"The Conservatives in the European Parliament are trying to ensure that the money goes where it was originally intended - to help those most in need - and have tabled amendments to the Report in three key areas. We proposed: Stricter guidelines to ensure the proper use of the funds, with real financial probity and the use of value for money indicators; A practical way of ending an unsuccessful project - an enforceable exit strategy - to stop the offloading of costs onto the local taxpayer, throwing good money after bad. Pressure to continue such projects is just 'jobs for the boys' at its worst and leads to increases in Council Tax bills; A return to an emphasis on bigger, capital projects which bring wider benefit to the community, rather than lots of smaller ones which benefit fewer people and are difficult to monitor. There should also be increased emphasis on the role of the private sector, to introduce financial reality to the project."

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