Britain misses out on pounds 15m EC aid

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The Independent Online
MILLIONS of pounds of European Community cash that could help places like Rosyth, which have been crippled by 'the peace dividend', are going begging.

In April, the EC launched a pounds 100m aid package to encourage areas that previously relied on the defence industries to seek other kinds of work. But, so far, no application has been received from Britain.

The money - pounds 15m of which is earmarked for Britain - can be used to promote job creation projects, road and rail improvements and research into other sources of employment. Under the scheme, called Konver, individual towns approach their governments which make recommendations to Brussels on their behalf.

Governments have until 31 August to submit their applications. While Bremen in Germany is believed to have applied for a pounds 5m hand-out, British areas that could expect to qualify are kicking their heels. They include Hampshire, Dorset, the Isle of Wight, Cumbria, Devon and Cornwall, North Yorkshire, Avon, Gloucester, Wiltshire, and Dunfermline and Fife, home of the Rosyth dockyard.

The Department of Trade and Industry, which is administering Konver in Britain, has yet to release details of the application process. Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, which has seen the loss of thousands of jobs at the local VSEL shipyard, has plans for a pounds 3m maritime technology park. With nine weeks to go before the deadline, Furness Enterprise, which would oversee the project, has received no details from the DTI on how to apply for Konver.

Last month, Tim Sainsbury, the Minister for Industry, told the House of Commons that the Government was opposed to the aid package. He said the Government strongly objected to such schemes in genral, because they took a 'partial approach to industrial adjustment'.