AS THE country heads towards Brexit, Wrexham’s MP says North Wales has been ‘short-changed’ by funding from the European Union for many years.
Ian Lucas MP says he wants the UK Government to ensure a new, fairer system is implemented in distributing money in the future.
As Prime Minister Theresa May seeks support for her proposed Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, Labour MP Mr Lucas led a Westminster debate on the subject during which the Under-Secretary of State for Wales admitted that the allocation of EU Structural Funds “hadn’t always worked” for the town.
Mr Lucas, a long-time campaigner for better investment in North Wales, used his speech to highlight examples of how the region, and Wrexham in particular, had missed out on money from the EU.
Opening the debate, Mr Lucas said: “Across the political spectrum, there’s a sense of agreement that the present system has not worked, in my view, for the benefit of all the nations and regions in the UK in the way that it should have.
“My perspective on this is that we need a new system of funding after Brexit, and a fair allocation of funding across Wales.”
EU Structural Funds are intended to support economic development across the EU and are administered in Wales by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO).
But while Wales itself has been one of the major beneficiaries of the system, Mr Lucas said that not enough money had filtered through to North Wales, particularly in the east of the region and in Wrexham.
He pointed to Glyndwr University as an example during Wednesday’s debate. Set up in 2008, the university received no structural funds at all in the period up until 2014 because of the way EU rules were applied. But during the same time period, Swansea University received £89m, the University of Glamorgan received £41m and Cardiff University got £29m.
Mr Lucas also revealed WEFO figures for the period 2007 to 2013, which showed how Neath Port Talbot Council received £89m, while Flintshire got £3m and Wrexham just £448,000.
The system is due to be replaced with one called the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
But Mr Lucas said the UK Government had so far failed to give any “lead” on how the system would operate.
He has asked for assurances that Wales would not receive any fewer funds than it currently does, and that the same rules for gaining access to funds would apply across the UK. He also asked who would administer the funds.
In response, Nigel Adams MP, the new Under-Secretary of State for Wales, conceded that the present system “hadn’t always worked” for Wrexham and there had been “a bit of a missed opportunity”.
He added that details about the UK Shared Prosperity Fund would be published by the Government before the end of the year and this would be followed by a public consultation. He was unable to say whether Wales would receive no less funding under the new system.
Speaking after the debate, Mr Lucas said: “I called this debate because I feel North Wales has been short-changed for many years by the EU Structural Fund system.
“Myself and several fellow Welsh MPs wanted a commitment that Wales would not receive less funding under the new system but that still has not been given.
“It is a cause of great concern and I will continue to press the Government on this.”