Monday, January 08, 2007
Conwy loses out on European funding
Conwy is being cheated out of millions of pounds in European funding because of unfair allocation by the Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff.
The county has missed out on nearly £12 million from the European Union’s Objective 1 programme. The study shows that if the money had been shared out more fairly by head of population, then Conwy would have received nearly 50 per cent more funding, £39 million instead of the £27 million it actually secured. In contrast, the neighbouring county of Gwynedd received £71 million, £31 million more than it should have been granted by head of population. The upshot is that Conwy is losing out badly, receiving only £241 of European funding per person compared with the £612 per person Gwynedd gets.
In my opinion, this is the great Assembly rip-off. While Wales is Britain’s poor cousin, at this rate Conwy will become the pauper of Wales. The current system of distributing European funding means that Conwy is losing out on vital cash.
So much more could have been done for communities and businesses if only the county had been allocated its rightful share of European grants. The only bigger scandal is that no one in office has been sufficiently awake to the injustice to speak out publicly or do anything to challenge it. The people of Conwy have been denied not only their fair share, but also a voice.
It is vital to start a local campaign now for a fair share of funds. With a further £1.3 billion to be spent during the next seven years, we need to fight for Conwy’s voice to be heard in the Assembly and ensure we get the funding we deserve. If European funds are shared out fairly over the next six years, Conwy will get a massive £160 million of European, public and private funds. Think of the difference that will make to all our lives.
My fear is that instead of helping more locally-based initiatives, funding will inevitably gravitate towards larger projects controlled from Cardiff, which will mean less money for Conwy again. This is completely wrong for Conwy and I will fight for a greater emphasis more on projects run by local organisations for the benefit of local communities.
Having spoken to many local business owners over the last six months, there is so much to be done in the coastal area around Llandudno, and in towns such as Llanrwst and Betws-y-Coed in the Conwy Valley, which have received precious little funds to date.
Given the enormous interest in this issue, I will be convening a meeting of local businesses during the next month to discuss how they would like to see this vast amount of European money spent on developing this region and increasing the prosperity of Conwy.