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Doubts Cast over Future of EU Funding for Broadband Projects in the UK

Posted: 10th Jan, 2012 By: MarkJ
uk mapeuropean union flagThe Labour party's Shadow Minister for Further Education, Skills and Regional Growth, Gordon Marsden (MP for Blackpool South), has warned that the coalition government's earlier move to scrap Regional Development Agencies (RDA) was "hasty" and could damage European broadband funding.

RDA's were effectively put on notice in 2010 when the new coalition government (Conservative and Liberal Democrats) effectively began the process of phasing them out in favour of a poorly funded replacement (here) - Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP).

According to Marsden, RDA's also played a key part in helping to manage the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Marsden now believes that some £1bn of funding from the EU has effectively been left in limbo due to the "delay and uncertainty" that has resulted. It's a charge the government denies.

The UK Housing Minister, Grant Shapps MP, said (This is Cornwall):

"We are on target and we have already invested some two-thirds of the money. To suggest otherwise is pure scaremongering."

It's important to stress that the ERDF doesn't just fund broadband schemes, although a large chunk of EU funding has gone to the UK and related projects (examples). The EU-wide pot of cash has recently increased in size to £8bn (here).

At the same time a change of agency won't stop any potential funding from being allocated in the UK, although delays are definitely possible and can cause their own problems. Meanwhile the government claims that it still has two years left to spend any unallocated EU money, otherwise the funding will either be returned to the Treasury or the EU.
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