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Ministers urged to guarantee £237m EU Greater Birmingham growth fund

Ministers urged to guarantee £237m EU Greater Birmingham growth fund

🕔01.Aug 2016

Greater Birmingham is stepping up its campaign demanding that the Government safeguard £237 million promised to the region in European Union grants by 2020.

The UK’s decision to leave the EU puts the funding stream at risk, and Ministers have so far stopped short of promising that any shortfall will be made up once negotiations for Brexit are triggered.

There is also uncertainty over the future of a £250 million EU fund for the Midlands Engine initiative, as well as £22 million for green infrastructure projects.

Birmingham city council leader John Clancy today called on the Government to make up any shortfall in the money which has been earmarked by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) for a number of schemes including a £50 million youth employment project and a £33 million business growth programme.

Writing in The Guardian newspaper, Cllr Clancy, who is also the economy portfolio holder on the West Midlands Combined Authority, says that Birmingham in particular has been a great beneficiary of EU funding and the city would suffer if future grants were cut off.

Cllr Clancy said:

Since the mid-1980s more than £1 billion of EU funding has been a catalyst for this change in Birmingham. The renaissance of the city has seen EU investments in the National Exhibition Centre, the International Convention Centre, Millennium Point and the town hall, to name just a few notable beneficiaries. But it has also helped reshape the city centre infrastructure by providing funding to remove the old inner-city ring road.

Local businesses have benefitted, too. In the 2007-13 programme, 24,000 West Midlands-based businesses received support through the European Regional Development Fund, which also supported more than 7,000 people to start up a new business.

In the same period more than £300 million was invested in jobs and skills, which moved around 60,000 people into work, 48,000 into further education and training, and supported 50,000 in gaining new qualifications.

The promised £237 million in EU grants forms a central plank in GBSLEP’s economic plan.

A quarter of the fund has been committed to 10 key investments, including a £50m youth employment initiative supporting 16,000 young people into work and a £33m business growth programme providing financial support for more than 500 small and medium businesses, creating 1,300 jobs.

Cllr Clancy warns:

The referendum result has now placed these and the remaining 75 per cent of uncommitted potential investments at risk.

Five weeks have passed since the vote to leave areas right across the country are still waiting for the Government to reveal its plans for these programmes. In the meantime key investments have stalled.

We are still waiting to hear about the fate of funds earmarked for a £250 million Midlands Engine loan fund and £22 million for green infrastructure developments, with a further £14 million of new skills investments are in the pipeline.

If cities such as Birmingham are to continue to lead and grow the regional economy then the uncertainty over EU funding needs to be removed. We urgently need a guarantee that these resources can continue to stimulate and help transform our city regions.

EU funds also helped to respond to crisis such as the closure of the MG Rover plant in 2005, where almost 6,000 people were made redundant and thousands more in the supply chain suffered. With more than £65m of EU funding support, a Rover taskforce was created and by April 2007 90 per cent of the redundant workers were back in work.

Greater Birmingham’s plea came as it emerged universities in the West Midlands are facing their own EU funding problems. Academics at the elite Russell Group of universities, which includes Birmingham and Warwick, said they have been asked to leave EU-funded projects or withdraw from leadership roles after the Brexit vote.

In a confidential survey by the Guardian, a backlash was found to be taking place from across the natural sciences, engineering and social sciences.

An EU project officer has reportedly recommended that all UK partners be dropped from research group because their share of the funding was not guaranteed.

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