Rural losers fear decline as EU accused of moving aid goalposts

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The Independent Online
BRITISH officials complained last night that the goalposts have been moved on regional aid, and the regions which have lost out complained of possible grave economic consequences.

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said Northern Ireland is losing out on funding at a time when it was desperately needed. He said: "If there is an opportunity for a different political climate and a return to a normal society in Northern Ireland, it's ridiculous that Brussels would deprive us of much-needed funding at a time when we can move forward and create a level of employment which we haven't got."

The Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesman, Charles Kennedy, whose Ross, Skye and Inverness constituency qualified for Objective 1 funding under the existing system, declared he was ready to fight to keep that status. He added his party would "underline the continuing vulnerability of our economic base".

Highlands Council convenor Peter Peacock said the European Union will be taking into account sparcity of city population when deciding which areas were eligible for the lucrative Objective 1 status. He added: "That measure is presently eight persons per square kilometre, ours is nine persons per square kilometre. We are certainly not giving up."

However, there were also winners. Under the new proposals South Yorkshire stands to gain up to pounds 1.2bn.

Dennis MacShane, Rotherham's Labour MP, said: "This is the best economic news this region has had for 20 years. This will provide a massive boost for economic regeneration in Yorkshire."