Belfast Telegraph

Money for UK projects 'being lost' through EU penalties

Ministers are not doing enough to stem the flow of penalties being paid out to Brussels because of errors in the way public bodies in the UK spend European Union (EU) funds, MPs have warned.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said Britain had the sixth worst record of the 28 EU member states, incurring at least £650 million in penalties from the European Commission over the past ten years.

Whitehall departments had exacerbated problems caused by the already complicated EU rules and regulations by designing complex spending programmes, increasing the risks of error, the committee said.

On agriculture and rural development funding, it said the UK had had £2.70 disallowed for every £100 it had received over the past decade, compared to 90p for Lithuania, 20p for Ireland and just 10p for Estonia, Germany, Latvia and Austria.

Committee chairman Meg Hillier said: "Government inaction on EU penalties is costing taxpayers dear. Money intended to support projects and programmes in the UK is instead being lost.

"The apparent lack of practical concern about this fact until recently will anger many people, whatever their views on Britain's EU membership.

"As a priority the Treasury and departments must identify the reasons they keep being penalised and take whatever action is necessary to rectify their mistakes."

A Treasury spokesman said: "Our local communities, farmers and world-leading universities are better off as a result of EU funding, and we're committed to ensuring this money is spent in the most effective way possible.

"We have made real progress to ensure every penny of EU funding gets to where it's needed, including by reducing agricultural penalties by almost two-thirds since 2005, and leading the way in Europe to slash regulation and other administrative burdens."