Councillors slam Euro budget rise

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COUNCILLORS have joined forces to slam a rise in the European Union’s budget when councils are facing severe budget cuts.

Despite opposition from MPs and MEPs, the Government recently agreed to a 2.9 per cent increase in the European Union (EU) budget, but the move has sparked anger from councillors in Hartlepool.

Less than a fortnight after setting Hartlepool Borough Council’s budget for next year, which will see services reduced and 86 employees made redundant, councillors tabled a motion criticising the rise at a time when council’s are making cuts.

The EU’s annual budget is now set at £106bn.

Councillors from each political party backed the motion at a meeting at the full council, with Liberal Democrat group leader Arthur Preece the only councillor to vote against, as he did not believe it would make any difference.

The motion by members of the Labour group called on Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, Easington MP Grahame Morris and MPs across the Tees Valley not to support increases in the EU budget.

Mr Wright has previously told the Mail he would write to the Government on the council’s behalf to outline their concerns.

Leader of the Labour group, councillor Chris Simmons said he was not anti-EU, but added: “We need to review what we pay into Europe.”

Labour councillor Jonathan Brash said the increase was wrong and that now was not the time to be giving more money to the EU, while Labour councillor Robbie Payne said he wanted to see the EU produce a statement of accounts.

Independent councillor Geoff Lilley said he backed the motion, but that it did not go “far enough” and he wanted the UK to review its terms of membership.

But Steve Allison, a former councillor for the St Hilda ward, and current vice chairman of the national UKIP party has accused the Labour group of “political opportunism”.

Mr Allison, who could not attend the meeting, said: “As a member of UKIP and a councillor I have been attacking EU funding for years and not once did I receive even the tiniest amount of support from the Labour Group or the Con-Dems in Hartlepool’s council chamber.

“In fact, the reverse is true. I was verbally attacked and shouted down from all sides for daring to question the wisdom of giving £48,000,000 a day to the EU.”