Devon to get share of £2.5billion extra funding from EU
David Cameron has confirmed Devon is in line for a massive injection of European Union cash after returning from triumphant budget negotiations.
The Prime Minister revealed to MPs the county is one of 11 UK regions that will share around £2.5 billion of regeneration money to revive their flagging economies from next year.
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were already set to receive almost £400 million in hand-outs of so-called structural aid as it remains England's poorest region.
Until yesterday, fears were mounting that Devon would get left behind, with firms flocking to Cornwall to set up business at the neighbouring county's expense.
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MPs, politicians and councillors were last night relieved Devon had been granted "transition region" status.
Sir Graham Watson, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West, said: "Extra European money for Devon will bring new jobs, will bring economic growth and will provide the funding needed to expand our skills base in the Westcountry.
"It is now up to businesses, voluntary groups, local councils and the local economic partnership to come up with the best plan for how to spend this extra funding."
In the Commons, the Prime Minister unveiled the 11 regions lined up for a cash boost as he hailed a real-terms cut in the EU's next seven-year budget as a good deal for Britain. Transition status ring-fences cash for hard-pressed regions rather than being swallowed up in the 908 billion euro budget, and promises more money than the areas would have got under previous spending rounds.
In March, official figures revealed Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly's Gross Domestic Deposit Product (GDP) is still below 75% of the European average – meaning it is in line for seven more years of help, worth around £410 million, from next year.
The GDP of Cornwall and the Scillies was 71.9% of the European average in 2009, meaning it remains poorer than parts of Romania, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
A category of regions "in transition", which have a GDP between 75% and 90% of the EU average, stand to get funding, but not on the same scale. Across the Tamar, Devon qualifies as it recorded output at 86.5%.
But recent research showed that in areas of Devon, including Torbay, North Devon, and Teignbridge, there is significant higher risk of sliding into poverty compared to Cornwall and the rest of the UK.
Some £1 billion pumped into Cornwall has paid for one of the fastest broadband connections in Europe, the development of Newquay Airport and the Combined Universities in Cornwall project.
Conservative leader of Devon County Council, John Hart, said: "We don't yet know what the budget will be, but it should mean Devon will be eligible for a bigger proportion of European funds for major projects designed to boost the economy and create jobs.
"If Devon can secure greater European subsidy, then our key economic growth projects stand a greater chance of going ahead. It's early days yet, but I am cautiously optimistic this is very good news for the Devon economy and the prosperity of our residents."
North Devon Lib Dem MP Nick Harvey said: "Having made the case to ministers since last year for the creation of a 'transition region' for Devon, I am very pleased that this funding is to become a reality. The potential economic boost provided by 'transition' status will benefit our communities through a more targeted, bottom-up approach which will fit with local needs and priorities for growth and vital job creation."