1. ITV Report

EU aid money for Wales guaranteed until 2020

The Chancellor's been assuring the Conservative Conference -and the Welsh Government- about EU aid money Photo: PA

Fears that projects receiving European aid could see the money dry up a year early appear to have been quashed by assurances given to the Welsh Government by the Treasury. Yesterday, the Chancellor, Phillip Hammond said that from this autumn only UK approved spending would be guaranteed after Britain leaves the EU in 2019.

The Treasury will offer a guarantee to bidders whose projects meet UK priorities and value for money criteria that if they secure multi-year EU funding before we exit we will guarantee those payments after Britain has left the EU. Protecting British jobs and businesses after Brexit.

– Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond MP

Wales had been due to receive about £2 billion in the period 2014-2020, most of it for West Wales and the Valleys. ITV News understands that the Welsh Government has now been told that in keeping with the devolution settlement, approval by ministers in Cardiff Bay will be enough to satisfy the Treasury that it will be money well spent.

At the Conservative party conference, the Welsh Secretary, Alun Cairns, has been highly critical of how the Welsh Government has spent European aid money. He suggested that after 2020, UK government rules will replace the EU rules that the Welsh Government currently has to follow.

Alun Cairns criticised the Welsh Government's use of EU money in his speech to the Conservative Conference Credit: PA

The outcome of the referendum has naturally raised concerns over the future of what is currently considered EU funding. Money targeted to support some of the poorest parts of the UK. But again, we must see this moment as an opportunity to do better for these communities.

After all, European structural funds are supposed to be a temporary fix, a stimulus for the most deprived parts of Europe. In Wales it was described as a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’.

16 years on and £4 billion later, Labour’s mismanagement of the funds in Wales let those communities down. So much was their frustration that those areas which received the most EU funds were the areas which voted strongest to leave.

And when we consider some of the projects they funded there is little wonder of their anger – if only outcomes had been as important as the money spent.

Simply carrying on with the same spending plans in the same old way after two decades is not an option. But a new structure will give us the opportunity to follow UK priorities, investing in a way that is completely tailored to the Welsh economy.

– Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns MP

A Welsh Government source said they'd been left wondering if the Secretary of State knew about what they see as a vote of confidence from the Chancellor in Cardiff Bay's control of European aid money.

The First Minister later formally welcomed the development.

I welcome the Chancellor’s confirmation that the Treasury will provide a full lifetime guarantee for all structural and investment projects approved before the UK leaves the EU. I have been calling for this guarantee since the referendum result in June. It is the only correct and logical decision, allowing continuity for Welsh communities, businesses and investors while arrangements are made for the longer term. EU funds are an important source of investment for Wales and we will continue to make the most of every penny we receive from Europe. We will also make a strong and positive case for Wales to get its fair share of funding after the UK exits the EU, as promised in the referendum campaign. The Treasury has confirmed that, in keeping with the devolution settlement, it will be for the Welsh Government to continue to determine how EU funds are spent in Wales, in line with our priorities.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

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