HC Deb 03 December 1996 vol 286 c576W
Sir Graham Bright

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if his Department has completed its review of European structural fund processes in England; and what conclusions it has reached. [7703]

Mr. Curry

We have completed our review of the European structural fund processes in England. In carrying out the work we have been aware of the criticisms and suggestions by numerous bodies both within and outside Government, including those contained in the report, "Efficiency Scrutiny of Financial Information Flows between Central and Local Government", which we published on 14 November.

We intend to revise radically the present administrative arrangements and to delegate to local partnerships considerable responsibility for project selection within an agreed action plan. This will ensure that partnerships are able to take a strategic view of the development of projects to deal with issues facing their areas and can bring to bear the European regional development fund and the European social fund alongside domestic regeneration programmes. Finally we propose to simplify the system of financial accounting for ERDF in England to speed up the payment of grant to successful applicants.

As a result of partnerships of public, private and voluntary bodies will be able, as with the single regeneration budget challenge fund, to bid for resources to achieve key improvements for their areas, or for individual projects. Bids will be judged as now by Government, advised by the Monitoring Committees. Partnerships will need to have in place high quality project appraisal and financial management systems to ensure that the public money is well spent. They will be judged by results.

We will be notifying the new arrangements to the European Commission and will be discussing the detailed implementation with the monitoring committees and others. Our aim is to put in place the system in time for the new objective 2 programmes starting next year. Our objective is high quality and fully integrated regeneration programmes which meet local needs.