Objective one. The pound;275 billion share-out;FE Focus

15th January 1999 at 00:00
The poorest regions in Europe should benefit from pound;275bn of Objective One cash paid out of the European Union's Structural Fund over six years.

To qualify for Objective One money, regions must be shown to have less than 75 per cent of the EU's average per capita gross domestic product.

Areas qualifying are concentrated in the EU's peripheries, with Wales joining Ireland, the Scottish Highlands and Islands, Portugal, Spain, Greece and southern Italy among the recipients.

Fifteen of Wales's 22 local authority areas qualify. The split shadows last year's referendum results showing that the country divides east-west as much as north-south. Areas that voted "yes" for a national Assembly fall largely into the Objective One region while the M4 corridor and the districts bordering England, which do not qualify, almost all voted "no".

Wales as a whole averaged 83 per cent of UK per capita GDP - down from 87 per cent in 1971 - and this fell to 72 per cent in west Wales and the Valleys.

Cardiff University academic Kevin Morgan, professor of European regional development, and development consultant Adam Price, in an Institute of Welsh Affairs pamphlet, pointed to a weak service sector, low levels of economic activity and a below- average number of firms as fundamental problems.

They note that while manufacturing employment has remained stable over the past decade, this conceals increases in the M1 corridor and in the North Wales A55 corridor - which have succeeded in attracting inward investment - and a decline in the Valleys and in particular in the West, which lost 15 per cent of its manufacturing employment.

They point to Conwy (67 per cent of EU average GDP) and Bridgend (68 per cent) as the poorest districts.

The European Commission will formally request bids for Objective One status in March, giving a deadline of June for the Welsh Office task force, including college principal John Stephenson, to come up with their action plan. Money should start to arrive in the middle of next year.

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