Government Regional Shambles

The man who cost us our shirt

BBC File on Four has broadcast an investigation into yet another shambles bequeathed to taxpayers by John Prescott (listen again here). It's likely to cost us another EU fine running into tens of millions (cf the £436m EU fine for Margaret Beckett's fiasco at the Rural Payments Agency).

This time it concerns incompetence at government regional offices. Each region was inflicted with one as part of Labour's plan for ruling us through a new regional quangocracy (see many previous blogs). Among other things, these offices are responsible for ladling out billions in EU regional support grants, and according to FoF their financial accounts are so shambolic, the EU has stopped the money and is likely to levy hefty fines:

"Six English regions were scrutinised over concerns over 'poor standards' of monitoring the spending of grants... the North West could be fined tens of millions of pounds."

Naturally the Department of Communities and Local Government denies everything, but nobody was prepared to be interviewed, so we can draw our own conclusions. Indeed, while FoF seems to have overlooked it, DCLG's annual report records deep in an accounting footnote a provision of £66.9m for EU fines (see notes 27.1 and 27.2). £66.9m is serious money, even for a department as wasteful and incompetent as DCLG.

A number of other interesting snippets:

    • A couple of the government's own regeneration grant schemes in the West Midlands (in Walsall and Aston) tipped tens of millions down the drain: the money never got through to local community projects, either being diverted into the local authorities' general spending pot (so much for "ring-fencing"), or being simply frittered away by hopeless low-grade wasters appointed to oversee things.

    • We've had £4bn of EU regional grants since 2001, including grants for restoring old railway lines, and grants for London, the most prosperous city in the EU. Why on earth are taxpayers being forced to pay for that?

  • The EU has got a brass neck fining Britain's hopeless bureaucracies for having ropey financial accounts- their own auditors have refused to sign off the EU's dodgy accounts for each of the last 12 years
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