Wales politics

Brexit: EU aid a 'bureaucratic nightmare', MPs are told

Wales and EU flags Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption UK ministers have promised to substitute the £375m that Wales gets annually from the EU

European funding has been a "bureaucratic nightmare" which has put organisations in Wales off accessing it, MPs have been told.

Economic development expert Prof Steve Fothergill said EU aid to Wales was "a bit of a mess in terms of management."

"There are so many players with their hands on the till," he told the Welsh Affairs Select Committee.

The committee is considering the scheme intended to replace EU aid after Brexit - the Shared Prosperity Fund.

UK ministers have promised to substitute the £375m that Wales gets annually from the European Union, but have not confirmed how.

The Welsh Government has called for "clarity and commitment" that the funding will be fully replaced.

Mr Fothergill, of Sheffield Hallam University's Centre for Regional Social and Economic Research, said: "The EU has its preferred objectives, the UK government stitches up its overarching programme, then it's passed down to Wales and the Welsh Government has a view on what should be done, and right down to all the local players."

He said things should naturally improve post-Brexit as "the EU will not be involved in the Shared Prosperity Fund, and you do simplify the management of the funds by removing one of the big players."

"We can have more flexibility once we're free of the constraints of the EU," he added.

'Fear of fraud'

Prof Dylan Jones-Evans, of the Faculty of Business and Society at the University of South Wales, agreed that "bureaucracy has made it difficult".

"The bureaucracy, and this has been the case from day one, could have been made easier for the smaller businesses to access some of this funding," he said.

"And not only that, but once you get the funding, it's the reporting structure you have afterwards which is... onerous would be too kind a word to use.

"Average small businesses spend a day a week on red tape and admin already, and then this burden is put on them... when they're reporting not only to the Welsh Government but also in some cases directly to the funder.

"If we're going to have a new system, we need balance - between fear of fraud and making it more flexible."

The committee's inquiry will continue to consider how effective the EU economic aid scheme for Wales has been and how it should be replaced.

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