The European Commission has announced £1.77bn (2.5bn Ecu) in aid programmes for 10 British regions in industrial decline. It says they will help to create 150,000 jobs.
Final approval is expected this month. The EU aid will be matched by British public funds of about £1.98bn, while £580m will come from the private sector for a total investment of about £4.39bn.
Programmes in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire, Yorkshire and Humberside and North East England will involve the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Some of these and other programmes are also directed heavily towards innovation, technology and research and development. In the West Midlands, 60% of the £317m EU funding is directed towards R&D.
The other regions to receive aid are Western Scotland, South Wales, Eastern Scotland, East London and the Lee Valley, West Cumbria and Furness. Approval for three other programmes – for Thanet, Plymouth and the East Midlands – is expected soon.
The EU aid was approved just as the commission’s Eurostat service revealed a slowing in the growth of UK industrial production.
This contrasts with a bullish assessment from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, which said British manufacturing industry was in its ninth successive month of growth, although the institute’s growth index fell by 0.4% in January.