EU divides opinion among town councillors

Lincolnshire County Council’s recent calls for a referendum on Britain’s involvement in the European Union has divided political views in Skegness.

Although the motion raised by Skegness councillor Mark Smith was merely a call to open the debate, rather than a demand to exit Europe, Labour party members in Skegness fear the underlying anti-European message expressed by the Conservative party could spell bad news for the town.

The Mayor of Skegness Coun Mark Anderson said: “People have got to realise how much the town has benefited from European funding - we would not be better off out of it, we would be in the mire.”

Coun Anderson and his Labour party branch chairman Brenda Futers have both highlighted major Skegness projects which have been paid for with European funding and questioned whether the town would have benefited from those developments had Britain opted out of the EU.

They fear the redevelopment of Skegness foreshore, the creation of Skegness Business Centre, recent improvements to The Village, Church Farm, which were carried out with European grants, would have been unable to proceed if Britain was not an EU member.

Mrs Futers has also highlighted the £4 million European grant application, which has been made to improve Tower Gardens Pavilion, St Matthew’s Church and Lumley Road as an indication of why Skegness is better off in the union.

And Europe’s common agricultural policy has also benefited Lincolnshire’s farmers, she claims, while other businesses have reaped rewards of the single market. Mrs Futers has accused the county’s Conservative administration of using the issue to deflect interest from local problems in the lead up to elections and fears Skegness would miss out without European funding.

She said: “I understand that as a country we put in more than we take out, but as a county we benefit significantly and what chance is there that government would take up where EU leave off?”

Coun Mark Smith, however, believesthe EU’s costs to British taxpayers, which in 2011 was recorded as £10.8 billion, could be better spent locally, rather than on ‘ridiculous money wasting’ bureaucracy and believes British voters should have the right to decide on the future of their country.

He said: “The EU is simply not sustainable in its current form.

“The public have a right to vote on whether or not we let the EU interfere with our laws and our economy and there seems to be a growing sense amongst the British people that the current direction of travel of the EU is not in our national interest.

“Only 27 per cent of today’s electorate were eligible to vote in the 1975 referendum, which was whether or not we joined the common market.

“Today’s EU is a world away from what the British people believed they were signing up for - I believe it is time to challenge the current view of Europe.”