Clare has criticised the DCLG for its costly incompetence over EU funding.
The release of EU structural funds for the English regions continues to be delayed, as the Government has failed to agree an Operational Programme with the European Commission.
This latest phase of funding - worth at least £450 million to Cornwall - was supposed to be available late last year and many in the county fear further delays could set-back Cornwall's development by 12 months.
Historically one of the poorest regions in the Europe Union, Cornwall is the only area of England to qualify for the very highest level of EU funding. Since 2005, approximately 130 projects across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have benefitted from funding as part of the Convergence Programme, intended to improve economic competitiveness and employment in the 'less developed' regions of Europe.
The only other Convergence region in the UK is West Wales and the Valleys, which has already received its share of funding because Wales, like Scotland and Northern Ireland, agreed its Operational Programmes with the Commission last year.
The delay affects all regions of England but is particularly hard for Cornwall, where EU funding is so closely tied to economic growth.
Business and community leaders across Cornwall and the South West have expressed serious concerns that the so-called ‘funding gap’ will impact the continuity of existing projects and affect the viability of planned projects, with serious implications for the region’s long-term prosperity.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) had previously assured councils that the Government would provide assistance with transition funding during the delay but, this week, it reneged on that assurance, leaving the fate of existing programmes, and businesses, in limbo.
Speaking from Brussels, Clare said:
It is disgraceful that DCLG have failed to secure agreement for Operational Programmes and failed to put faith in the local bodies that they set up to administer regional funds: LEPs.
This level of incompetence is not only breathtaking it is deeply damaging to the county, at a cost of hundreds of jobs, millions of pounds and a potentional 12 month delay in Cornwall’s development.
I first raised this as an issue in November last year. Since that time, the UK government has been saying one thing to councils and another to the European Commission. Now the Government has come clean that it won’t be helping to finance programmes that will be hit by the delay. Councillors and businesses rightly feel let down.
It would be a terrible loss if this news forced existing businesses out of the county or deterred others from investing. There is a genuine risk that we lose those skills and expertise that are so integral to a healthy economy and they will be extremely hard to replace.
Update - 29 Jan 2015
Clare speaks to Georg Von Harrach for ITV Westcountry: