Assisted Area Status means that an area (defined by local authority ward boundaries) is exempt from EU rules preventing state aid – effectively meaning that the British Government can provide assistance to business and the local economy in deprived areas.
For various reasons such as low pay, levels of unemployment and in particular the large manufacturing sector in the region, East Lancashire is an area which is eligible for a potentially large amount of state aid. The first consultation launched by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills actually offered a good deal for East Lancashire – it recognised the real need which exists, and I think it is a good basis on which to proceed.
At the time I wrote to the Minister expressing my support the AAS map as it then stood.
However it is the view of many in local government in Lancashire now that we should be pushing for the inclusion of further wards into the state aid area. I have come to believe strongly that Worsley, should be included in the ASS area – the arguments which the Government has accepted as a valid basis for the inclusion of other areas can also be extended to include Worsley.
Moreover, I believe that there is significant grounds to look at Church, Central and Milnshaw, which all have a good case to be made. For instance Milnshaw has a 25.6% manufacturing employment levels, 66% employment and 84.5% low-skilled workforce.
There are population limits as to how many people can live in wards that benefit from AAS aid, however the Government may have 'held back' a certain amount of population designation – if this is the case then I would urge them to urgently look at Worsley as well as the three Hyndburn wards.
I have written to Michael Fallon, who is the Minister responsible for the AAS consultation and process to once again push the case for state aid in East Lancashire.U