This morning an email hit my inbox from the Tax Payers Alliance and Global Vision announcing the joint campaign that they intend to run over the next few months highlighting the need for radical change in Britain's relationship with the EU. One of the issues they will address is "absurd EU Grants". I welcome any scrutiny of the effectiveness of government grants - its our tax-payers money that is being spent.
Minutes later a large package hits my door mat. These relate to a meeting that I will attend on Friday to "scrutinise" the EU grants that are currently opperating in the East of England. Over an inch of finely typed papers and sums that add up to hundreds of millions of pounds.
A lot of these projects have aims that sound very worthy, "promoting low carbon economic growth", "expanding skills", "engaging with Employers", as well as supporting those involved in "mass redundancies", addressing "innovative town centres' economic revitalisation". The problem is that as I read through the papers it is very hard to see any assessment of where the money has gone or if it has been well spent. Lots of workshops have been arranged - more are planned. But actual results? There are some...but ploughing through the mountain of papers there a few tangible markers to help me scrutinise the real benefits. A lot of money, a lot of bureaucracy, incredibly complex - but how helpful?
The accountability of this system also leaves a lot to be desired - earlier this year I asked to be one of the elected local councillors in the region on the "scrutiny" panel - I can ask questions but the panel appears to have very little ability to control or change the system.
So I will go to the meeting on Friday, ask some questions, hopefully learn a bit more, and complain that the value for money is not being considered. I will let you know if I am enlightened any further!