LEPs 'safe' to distribute EU regional aid

The coalition Government's localism minister yesterday denied that new council and business-led local enterprise partnerships would face legal difficulties over distributing European cash.

The Government announced the first round of 24 LEPs last week, and has previously said that the new bodies would be able to distribute funds from Europe.

Business and enterprise minister Mark Prisk told a select committee meeting last month that, while European regional aid would be administered centrally, LEPs would have the opportunity to become "Whitehall’s delivery partners" on the ground.

However, some experts had questioned whether European Union rules would allow LEPs to take on this role.

But speaking yesterday at the launch of a LEP covering Kent, Essex and East Sussex at the House of Lords, Greg Clark said: "As you might expect, there was a degree of due diligence done before we announced the LEPs.

"There is no difference at all in the ability of LEPs to distribute European funds. The European funds don’t rely on the particular arrangements of the RDAs."

Clark also said that the new Kent, Essex and East Sussex LEP would help the regeneration of the Thames Gateway.

He said: "There are lots of things that unite Kent and Essex, particularly in the Thames Estuary. Previously it was split between three regions, and the new LEP offer the opportunity of working together for greater effect."

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