The draft EU budget deal reached by European governments needs to be adjusted to protect projects to boost growth and infrastructure investment with slightly deeper cuts to some other areas, says West Midlands Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion.

phillip-bennion-mep-1While accepting a small overall cut in the EU budget to an overall ceiling of EUR 960 billion, the Lib Dem Employment Spokesman is urging governments to think again on deep cuts to proposed transport, broadband and innovation budgets during this week's round of EU budget talks.

Phil Bennion said: "As it stands the deal trumpeted by Mr Cameron would mean much less money than previously planned for research and billions less for vital infrastructure like new rail links - possibly HS2 - and a 90% cut to the figure the Commission proposed for rural broadband. That would be a disastrous missed opportunity.

"We need to make economies, but as it stands the cuts disproportionately affect some of the most useful things the EU can do.

"For instance, I and many MEPs across other parties believe we should protect the proposed Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), a 'financial instrument' to help new transport networks such as high speed rail, or information networks like superfast rural broadband. Overall the CEF is facing a cut of around 40 per cent.

"The amount planned for superfast rural broadband has been cut by 90% from ten billion to just one billion euros.

"These new smaller budgets which lever large amounts of private investment would be highly effective in kickstarting growth. They need to be protected.

"We should be looking for slightly greater savings in other budgets such as cohesion, which are much larger in relative terms.

"In Britain the coalition has been reversing Labour's plans to cut infrastructure spending, quite rightly, as it is vital to promote long term economic growth and help us keep up with the kind of modern infrastructure being built at breakneck speed by the Chinese for instance.

"Cutting the budget in this area could hurt growth and stifle major investment projects in our infrastructure.

"I also urge Mr Cameron and other EU leaders to get serious in making savings in back office costs - the budget for administration is still due to go up.

"We need to bite the bullet and abolish the Strasbourg seat of Parliament. Holding all of our meetings in one location in Brussels could save taxpayers £180 million a year."

Dr Bennion also criticised suggestions from some MEPs that the final European Parliament vote on the EU budget should be secret.

"This is a total nonsense in a democratic Parliament. MEPs are elected and people have a right to know which way they vote, I never heard anything so ludicrous."


Note: Under the draft deal, deep reductions are proposed to the original budget amounts drawn up by the Commission for infrastructure and research and development. The Connecting Europe Facility, originally planned to receive EUR 50bn, will only get EUR 29.299bn.
Transport networks would receive EUR 23.174bn instead of EUR 31.7bn
Energy networks (such as supergrids to help distribute power from renewables) would only receive EUR 5.13bn instead of EUR 9.1bn
Telecom networks (including superfast rural broadband) would be slashed from EUR 9.2billion to just EUR 1 billion for the whole of the EU.