£250m EU cash on offer

SHAUN LOWTHORPE East Anglia is today set to win access to £250m EU cash as the government details new funding rules from Brussels, the EDP has learned.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

East Anglia is today set to win access to £250m EU cash as the government details new funding rules from Brussels, the EDP has learned.

Ministers are set to outline today how much cash will be available from EU funds in the five years from 2007.

That is likely to see £65m in capital funding - down from the £90m made available under the previous system, and £145m for training and job creation.

The region will also be able to tap into £50m for cross border projects with neighbouring EU countries and there could be a further £50m available for coastal areas including Norfolk and Suffolk for cross border partnerships with neighbouring regions.

The announcement is also expected to see the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) handed a bigger role in how cash is handed out.

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Labour Euro MP Richard Howitt, who oversaw several changes to the original proposals after fears the region would lose out to the new eastern European states joining the EU, said he was quietly confident the region would get the cash. And he said it could make a "decisive impact" in tackling climate change if plans to focus on initiatives to cut carbon emissions are given the green light.

"It puts egg on the face of the anti-European doom-mongers who predicted that European cash would dry up following EU expansion and who did nothing to put forward our local case," he said. "The funding has played a critical role in tackling poverty and inequality where it sill exists locally but in the future this cash can make a decisive contribution in helping our businesses and communities move towards the goal of carbon neutrality.

"Britain as a whole stands to gain by roughly two-thirds compared with the last time these European funds were negotiated in 1999, taking account of higher employment and economic prosperity in Britain today as well as the entry of Eastern European countries into the EU.

"If a figure of up to £250million is confirmed on Monday, that would represent our region maintaining its share of the national pot, representing a genuine victory for the local authorities, business and all of us involved in putting the region's case."

Richard Rockcliffe, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for economic development said the authority was keeping its fingers crossed, but there was still a long way to go before figures were confirmed.

"Norfolk County Council welcomes the new funding opportunities which will be available to us after 2007 and is already working, along with partners in Norfolk, the East of England region and on the European mainland to prepare projects for a competitive bidding opportunity," he said.

"The rules governing these funds have not yet been drawn up and we are involved in the regional networks to work on their development, to ensure that Norfolk has the best possible scope for successful applications."