I have always argued that so-called "EU Funding" is just British taxpayers' money recycled through Brussels - but with unhelpful strings attached.
We are talking about some £50 million a year for the East of England. The process of applying for funding is dense, and complicated. Often money is not well spent. I believe that one of the key responsibilities of an MEP is to ensure that this money is put to good use. In the past our involvement in the process has been somewhat remote. Now, change is on the way.
We have a Conservative-led government with an excellent local Secretary of State, Eric Pickles MP. He has dismantled the regional quango, EEDA, and given a sympathetic ear to my plea for sensible MEP involvement, to help ensure funding goes into worthwhile projects that will boost growth and jobs in our region.
As a consequence of my iniative your local MEPs are now invited to the 'Local Management Committee', which has the responsability for overseeing the dispersement of certain "EU funds" available to us locally.
Previously I have given my support to a number of projects:
- Felixstowe The upgrade of the North Rail Terminal at Felixstowe Port with a £4.2 million contribution to the £34 million overall costs from the EU’s TEN-T funding. This new terminal will facilitate the transit of more freight by rail, and is likely to remove up to 500,000 lorries from the roads each year.
- Lowestoft over £1 million secured from the European Fisheries Fund to help consolidate the fish processing industry in our region.
- Re-signalling works to be carried out on the Nuneaton North Chord and Kennett railway line also secured TEN-T funding this year in the form of a £4.15 million contribution towards their £33 million budget. The improvements to this line will make an important contribution to freeing up freight capacity, again helping to alleviate road congestion.
- Southwold For a long time I have campaigned for improvements to the coast defences on the Blyth estuary. Southwold Harbour has now secured £1.22m from the European Fisheries Fund and the Marine Management Organisation to renew the crumbling harbour wall. The influx of EU money for the repairs has meant that port facilities such as fish refrigeration, a crane and improved moorings can be planned.