EC assisted area status to boost London jobs: Revised map shows a marked shift in aid to southern England

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BRITAIN joined the Irish Republic, Greece and Spain yesterday when parts of its capital were granted assisted-area status for the first time.

Lea Valley in east London and Park Royal in the west will receive government aid for job- creation programmes, factory developments and transport improvements.

In announcing the revised assisted areas map for Britain, Tim Sainsbury, the Minister for Industry, said that while it was true that Britain was joining the poorer members of the European Community in having a capital that received state aid, it only applied to 'small parts of London'.

The new map shows a marked shift towards the South, South- east and South-west, with the coastal towns of Clacton in Essex, Dover and Folkestone in Kent, Hastings in East Sussex and Torbay in Devon all being made assisted areas.

Other winners were towns and districts hit by cuts in the coal and defence industries. They include Mansfield, Alfreton and Ashfield in the Nottinghamshire coalfield; Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, which has suffered heavy job losses at its Trident submarine yard; and Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy, home of the Rosyth naval dockyard.

While the southern half of the country showed a marked gain, the North, Wales and Scotland fared less well. Darlington in the North-east loses its assisted-area status, as does Lampeter and Aberaeron in west Wales. Dumbarton in Scotland is downgraded from a full to intermediate assisted area.

Labour was quick to seize on the map as evidence of Conservative attempts to appease voters in their traditional southern heartland.

Alan Milburn, Labour MP for Darlington and chairman of the party's backbench Treasury committee, said that it 'rewards politically those parts of the country the Government is most concerned about. It is no coincidence that the South, South- east and South-west are the major beneficiaries. It is gerrymandering - a vain attempt to prop up crumbling Tory support in those areas.'

He added that the list, which had to be approved by the European Commission, was already outdated. One of the key factors in determining assisted-area status is unemployment, yet he claimed that '12 of the winners have seen their unemployment fall from between 10 and 46 per cent in the last six months'.

Mr Sainsbury denied that the map was based on politics. Current unemployment was only one factor, he said. Others were levels of unemployment over the last five years, future job prospects and the strength of the local economy.

New assisted areas: Alfreton and Ashfield, Alnwick and Amble, Barnstaple and Ilfracombe, Barrow-in-Furness, Bideford, Bridlington and Driffield, Castleford and Pontefract, Chesterfield, Clacton, Dorchester and Weymouth, Dover and Deal, Folkestone, Great Yarmouth, Harwich, Hastings, Isle of Wight, London - Lea Valley and Park Royal, Louth and Mablethorpe, Mansfield, Retford, Sittingbourne and Sheerness, Skegness, St Austell, Thurso, Torbay, Wakefield and Dewsbury, Whitehaven, Wigan and St Helens, Wisbech, Worksop.

New non-assisted areas: Accrington and Rossendale, Badenoch, Bradford, Cardiff, Corby, Cinderford and Ross-on-Wye, Darlington, Kidderminster, Lampeter and Aberaeron, Newport, Scunthorpe, Shotton, Stewartry, Telford and Bridgnorth.