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OUTCRY OVER 'FIXED' EURO TRAINING FUNDS

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Leaked documents have revealed the government is manipulating the process by which European funds for training are ...
Leaked documents have revealed the government is manipulating the process by which European funds for training are allocated in order to reduce its own input into training programmes.

The documents, which came to light this week in an investigation by BBC Radio 4, provide further evidence that it pays lip-service to additionality, which requires that governments match European funds with their own funding.

The papers show that civil servants are being instructed to favour Whitehall schemes over those operated by local authorities and training and enterprise councils.

According to Ian Thomas, policy officer with the Association of Metropolitan Authorities which has called for the European Commission to investigate the business, these leaks 'call into question the honesty of the government and its willingness to abide by the agreement of additionality'.

Each year regional monitoring committees, chaired by civil servants, assess which bids - including those from government-backed schemes, TECs, local authorities and voluntary groups - are considered for European money.

And according to one of the leaked documents, pressure is being put on civil servants to favour the government projects. 'The requirement on government offices to make successful European Social Fund bids to support government programmes should be taken into account in determining local project selection criteria.'

Another reveals that TECs should be made aware of the consequences of their schemes getting approval ahead of government initiatives.

'If the TEC bids were to threaten the success of government applications, the potential damage to the employment department's budget and probable effect on TEC budgets should be explained to the TECs: and the TECs should be encouraged not to submit or [to] withdraw bids,' the document states.

According to Mr Thomas, the EC could decide to withhold funds from the UK if it concludes there has been an abuse of the funding system. 'They will probably send a nasty letter asking what action the government intends to take to clear up its act and to ensure the secretariats overlooking the monitoring committees are operating even-handedly, and are not skewed towards government schemes,' he said.

- The BBC documentary, File on Four, is being repeated on Radio 4 this Saturday at 5pm.

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