Resorts face industrial aid cut

Yarmouth and Lowestoft could miss out next year on funding aimed at tackling unemployment.

Yarmouth and Lowestoft could miss out next year on funding aimed at tackling unemployment, it emerged yesterday.

Proposals unveiled by the Department of Trade and Industry could see both towns stripped of their assisted area status, cutting their access to regional industrial aid.

Last night, the announcement was met with frustration from politicians and regeneration bosses in both towns, who vowed to lobby the government to reverse its decision.

But industry minister Margaret Hodge, said she was "well aware" of the economic need in both towns, and added that need was greater elsewhere.

Under the scheme, which was introduced in the mid-1980s, companies in assisted areas are eligible for government aid to create or safeguard jobs. Last year they received about £200m.

But from 2008 the percentage of the UK population covered by the status is set to drop from 30.9pc to 23.9pc. The change was ordered by the European Union, partly to give more aid to the newer EU countries including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia.

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Over the next month a provisional map of assisted aid areas, which has seen a number of regions including both Lowestoft and Yarmouth removed, will be consulted on. It is due to be finalised on August 7.

Last night, Yarmouth MP Tony Wright said: "I am shocked and disappointed that we are not on the map, but at this stage it is only a draft and this is an issue I will be taking up with the government.

His comments were echoed by the economic development officer at Yarmouth Borough Council, Peter Wright, who said: "Our feeling is it's the second stage of the consultation and we are going to put a strong case forward for assisted area status to be reinstated."

Across the Suffolk border, Waveney District Council's portfolio holder for economic regeneration, Wendy Mawer, said: "We will be preparing a robust response to the consultation map. It is not realistic when you take into account the fact that we are eligible for an urban regeneration company, the main part of that is that we need special assistance.

"If we do lose the aid we will cope, but it will not be helpful to our regeneration aims and ambitions."

But Waveney MP Bob Blizzard said the fact

that Lowestoft is no longer eligible showed the "huge progress" the town had made economically and was something to be celebrated.

He added: "However, if there was a case to be made for

this funding by linking together Lowestoft and Yarmouth of course I would support that."