AT least £650million of British taxpayers’ cash has been handed to Brussels in fines for misspending European Union grants.
Last night MPs warned that ministers have only just woken up to the scandal.
Civil servants had made the problem worse by complicating bureaucratic EU schemes for areas like farm subsidies leading to mistakes and making fines more likely, an influential Commons committee claimed.
It meant money that could have benefited the UK was lost in penalties.
But UK government departments “only seem to have woken up to this problem recently”, said a report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee, which monitors state spending.
Britain has incurred at least £650million in fines from the European Commission over the past 10 years for errors in how UK public bodies spent EU funds, according to figures last year from the National Audit Office.
“Money intended to support projects and programmes in the UK is being lost
Meg Hillier, Labour chairman of the cross-party committee, said: “Government inaction on EU penalties is costing taxpayers dear.
“Money intended to support projects and programmes in the UK is instead being lost.
“The apparent lack of practical concern about this fact until recently will anger many people, whatever their views on Britain’s EU membership.
“As a priority the Treasury and departments must identify the reasons they keep being penalised and take whatever action is necessary to rectify their mistakes.”
The findings underline pro-Brexit campaigners’ claim that if Britain left the EU it could spend the money it now sends to Brussels on our own priorities instead of having some of the cash sent back to us for complicated EU schemes.
A Treasury spokesman said: “Our local communities, farmers and world-leading universities are better off as a result of EU funding, and we’re committed to ensuring this money is spent in the most effective way possible.
“We have made real progress to ensure every penny of EU funding gets to where it’s needed, including by reducing agricultural penalties by almost two-thirds since 2005, and leading the way in Europe to slash regulation and other administrative burdens.”