Local Labour MEP, Glenis Willmott, has backed moves to prevent millions of pounds, intended to help some of Britain’s poorest areas, from being lost after failures by the British government left huge sums unspent in 2014.
The 29 April vote in the European Parliament will ensure that unspent money in the EU’s regional development programme is carried forward into 2015 so it can still be used to support projects across the UK.
For the UK a total of €1.25 billion (approximately £0.89 billion) from the European Structural Funds was not used after delays in concluding agreements with the European Commission on how the funds, which are intended to support local projects to boost economic growth, would be managed.
English regions were particularly badly hit by delays because the Conservative-led government had failed to plan for how funds would be managed following their decision to scrap the regional bodies that had coordinated this funding in the past. These programmes were agreed last year for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
While the government had claimed that Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) would take over this role from Regional Development Agencies, the way in which the LEPs were introduced meant that the government could not provide the assurances needed by the European Commission to unlock the funding.
Money has only recently been unlocked after the government centralised much of the management of the funding in England, taking control out of the hands of most LEPs.
East Midlands MEP, Glenis Willmott, said:
“Today we have managed to ensure that European money intended to boost economic growth across the UK will not be lost – but it should never have got to this.
“Local businesses and organisations are only now just starting to apply for funding that could have been invested in projects last year. On top of that, in most cases decisions on how the money will be allocated will not be taken by people living and working in the areas that the money is targeted to help.
“These programmes, which are all about boosting local economies, creating jobs and tackling economic inequality, are positive examples of how the EU budget can make a real difference for British people. It is good that we have unlocked this funding today, but the government has questions to answer on how they have managed this process.”
The European Parliament has today backed Labour’s proposals to protect taxpayers against having to bail out corporations if times get tough.
The proposals for new EU financial legislation also seeks to stabilise markets and boost economies across Europe.
“This is a vital step in stabilizing markets across Europe” said local Labour MEP Glenis Willmott.
“In my constituency in the East Midlands, I saw the detrimental effects of the 2008 economic crash and the burden that was put on local authorities and taxpayers – this legislation will help to reduce the risks of this happening again. Hard-working people should not have to foot the bill for large corporations who expect governments to pick up the pieces when times get tough.”
The proposed legislation would create new regulations for Money Market Funds (MMFs) which represent a one trillion euro industry. The funds are used as a cash management tool by a variety of different organisations from small charities to large multi-nationals. They are used by many as a safe and reliable place to store cash until the next payroll as they offer a low-risk, low-return short-term investments. They are also important for holding short-term debts for banks, local authorities and central government – helping to make the European economy less reliant on bank funding.
East Midlands MEP, Glenis Willmott, added: “I know how important these funds are for all sorts of companies. Funds like these offer organisations, such as housing associations, a low-risk way of investing their money. That’s why it was really important to make sure we didn’t kill these funds but diversified and stabilized them.”
Investing in MMF shares is often seen as a substitute for a bank deposit. MMFs offer many features comparable to bank deposits: instantaneous access to liquidity and stable value at redemption. But MMFs are not covered by a bank deposit guarantee and the value of a share fluctuates in line with the price of the debt instruments that an MMF invests in.
During the 2008 crisis, investors, primarily the large private sector companies, withdrew their cash rapidly from these investments, leaving the taxpayer with the heavy burden of supporting these funds. This legislation makes these funds more transparent, liquid and stable in order to prevent this happening again.
This stability coupled with reforms that introduce a new type of MMF that will inject cash into the European investment markets – will offer a boost to economies across Europe. These stronger more stable economies will help nations on the road to recovery and ultimately create more jobs across the continent.
Local Labour MEP, Glenis Willmott, has called on the European Commission to take action to reduce the burden of alcohol-related harm in Europe.
Voting in the European Parliament today, MEPs supported a resolution calling for the Commission to produce a new EU Alcohol Strategy and to take greater steps to ensure people are fully aware of the dangers of drink-driving and drinking when pregnant.
Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s European health spokesperson and author of the resolution said:
“Europe is still the heaviest drinking region in the world, with alcohol the third biggest cause of preventable death and disease and alcohol-related harm costing the EU economy €155.8 billion a year.
“Alcohol is linked to over 60 chronic illnesses including cancer, liver disease and heart disease. The evidence is clear that drinking during pregnancy harms the unborn child and the Commission needs to do more to ensure people are aware of this by introducing warning labels on all alcoholic drinks.”
MEPs also want mandatory labelling of calories on alcoholic drinks, as alcohol was previously excluded from food labelling laws that apply to all other products.
Glenis Willmott MEP added:
“Many people don’t realise how many calories are in alcohol and Labour MEPs have always argued for clear, honest labelling.
“Consumers have a right to know that a glass of wine has the same number of calories as a slice of cake. This isn’t about telling people what to do, but giving them the information they need to make informed, choices.
“This is by no means an extreme measure and is actually supported by the Brewers of Europe.”
“The European Parliament has made it clear that we want the Commission to make tackling alcohol-related harm a priority. We’ve sent a strong message to the Commission today and I hope they’ll listen and finally come forward with a new Strategy to set out how this will be done.”
Europe is facing a crisis with over 5 million young people in unemployment. Labour MEPs are fighting for new opportunities for young people in the UK and plan to vote in favour of EU funding to help create new jobs for those aged 16-25 years.
Labour’s leader in Europe, Glenis Willmott MEP, said:
“It is completely unacceptable that 743,000 people aged 16-24 years are unemployed in the UK. Surely Britain can do better than this for our young people.”
The vote on Wednesday 29 April is for an amendment to the European Social Fund which would allow for an increase in pre-financing as part of the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI). This would mean that previously agreed funding could be accessed at the beginning on a scheme to allow for quick implementation.
Labour MEPs led the campaign in creating the YEI, which is available in regions where unemployment of 15-25 year olds is over 25%. The European Commission encourages Member States to use this funding to provide a Youth Guarantee, ensuring anyone under 25, who has been unemployed is offered: a good-quality job, continued education, an apprenticeship or further training.
Unfortunately, David Cameron chose not implement the Youth Guarantee; instead using the money to prop up his heavily criticised Youth Contract as part of his Work Programme.
Glenis Willmott MEP added:
“Under Cameron, less than 13% of the 160,000 promised work placements were delivereD and less than 1 in 3 of young people referred to the Work Programme have found a job.
“Here’s the difference, Labour has pledged to combat this crisis by implementing a Jobs Guarantee. This would guarantee a job to all 16-24 year olds who have been unemployed for over a year. Proving once again Labour is the only Party that truly represents the many and not the top few.”