Leaders will be submitting a responseto the UK government tomorrow stating their concerns over government proposals to overhaul European regional policy (consultation paper entitled 'A Modern Regional Policy for the UK', March 2003).
Over the last two decades the UK has benefited from millions of pounds worth of European funding which has revitalised many of its poorest inner city districts and improved competitiveness. Now, faced with the entry of ten central European countries to the European Union (EU), and a corresponding decline in revenues from Brussels, the UK government is rethinking its commitment to the process.
In March 2003, three government departments issued a consultation paper suggesting that the financial responsibility for supporting regions should be transferred back to individual member states. The proposals suggest that the UK would no longer pay into a central European pot for regional funding, and would simply fund UK regional policy itself.
Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said:
'European regional policy is not simply a matter of money coming into the hardest hit parts of our cities, although that is vitally important. It is also about being seen to be proactive in our attitude to international partnerships and the enlargement of the EU.'
Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, said:
'At a recent meeting with chancellor Gordon Br own, moves towards an understanding between government and cities were made.
'The UK government should be wary of pursuing an isolationist stance and in any case with several of the larger EU member states opposing the so-called 're-nationalisation' route, the policy would appear to be a non-starter.'
The publication of the government's paper has led to the production of a more specific declaration from the 12 cities in response. In summary, the cities' paper:
- summarises the great benefits up until now of EU regional policy funding and the partnerships it creates
- highlights the government paper's weaknesses on policy issues
- challenges the paper's underlying thinking
- advocates the adoption of a multilateral approach
Negotiations amongst the 'EU 25' (15 current member states and 10 candidate countries) will continue over the coming months. City officers will be following up the invitation made by Gordon Brown for detailed discussions with Treasury staff on the issues involved. City leaders will then respond to the chancellor's invitation for a further meeting with them.
The paper will be submitted to the three government departments from the following local authorities:
Councillor Keith Wakefield, Leader of Leeds City Council
Councillor Albert Bore, Leader, Birmingham City Council
Councillor Richard Leese, Leader, Manchester City Council
Councillor Tony Flynn, Leader, Newcastle City Council
Councillor John Collins, Leader, Nottingham City Council
Councillor Margaret Eaton, Leader, Bradford City Council
Councillor Mike Storey, Leader, Liverpool City Council
Councillor Charles Gordon, Leader, Glasgow City Council
Councillor Donald Anderson, Leader, Edinburgh City Council
Councillor Barbara Janke, Leader, Bristol City Council
Councillor Russell Goodway, Leader, Cardiff City Council
Councillor Adrian Vinson, Leader, Southampton City Council