Shift in EC aid 'will hit areas in decline'

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The Independent Online
THE Government risks damaging areas hit by the decline of traditional industries by shifting EC aid to the South of England, a an MEP said at the weekend.

Details of areas that the Government wants assistance for were leaked to Wayne David, a Labour MEP and spokesman on European regional policy. They show that several areas, mostly in southern England, have been added to the list of existing regions which receive EC aid.

Great Yarmouth, Southend, Brighton, Weymouth, Portsmouth, and Bristol are all on the list, said Mr David, in addition to areas hit by industrial decline in the North-west and North-east, the Midlands and South Wales. Edinburgh is included. The Government is also likely to put a high priority on getting cash for parts of inner London.

The Government was accused of favouring the South of England for electoral reasons when it drew up a map of assisted areas earlier this year for approval by the EC.

The list is to be published today or tomorrow by the Department of Trade and Industry. It was handed to the European Commission last Thursday. The last such list was drawn up in 1988.

It shows how the recession has hit the prosperous areas of Britain, though some of the projected aid is destined for places suffering from the decline of the arms industry. 'It seems incredible that at a time when the Government is talking about building on the recovery, many of the traditionally wealthy regions are in trouble,' Mr David said.

Britain received about pounds 900m pounds in regional aid in the year 1992-93, and there is a pot of some pounds 120bn for all 12 EC states for the five years 1993-1998. But the lion's share of this is earmarked for Spain, Greece, Portugal and Ireland, the EC's poorest states.

The next stage will be a bargaining between Britain and Brussels over which areas get aid. The assistance is heavily oversubscribed by all EC members, all of which are hit by low growth or recession.