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Aggies tax fails to help blighted areas

MATERIALS Tiny fraction of controversial levy goes to communities affected by quarrying

QUARRYING communities will receive only a tiny fraction of the cash raised by a tax on aggregates under a funding scheme revealed by the Government.

Towns and villages close to quarries in England will get barely 1 per cent of the £300 million-a-year tax haul the Government receives through the aggregates levy.

Despite promising to use the tax to help communities affected by quarrying, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs has earmarked just £3.5 million to fund local projects designed to compensate for the impact of mineral workings.

Most of the money raised by the hated £1.60-per-tonne stone tax is channelled into funding a notional reduction in National Insurance contributions for employers but some is held back under the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund.

This is supposed to address the impact of aggregate extraction on the environment and local communities and totals around £35 million each year.

But Defra revealed last week that, of the £29.3 million from the fund to be spent in England, 17 local authorities will receive less than £3.5 million, averaging £203,000 each.

Some areas such as quarry-heavy South Yorkshire will receive just £110,000, to be split between schemes in Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley.

Even traditional quarrying hotbed Leicestershire is set to receive under £500,000.

The biggest beneficiary of sustainability fund cash over the next year will be Government-supported recycling promotional body, Wrap. It will pocket over £7 million to promote the use of recycled and secondary aggregates, while a partnership between the Countryside Agency and English Nature will get £5.2 million.

Government-funded historic environment body English Heritage will receive £4.44 million while the Department for Transport gets a £3.7 million cash boost to help promote 'environmentally friendly transport of aggregates' according to Defra.

The Mineral Industries Research Organisation - near the back of the queue - was granted £1.5 million. It will look at developing technology for sustainable production.

One independent quarrier in the north-east slammed the funding.

He said: 'The amount of money being spent at a grassroots level is pathetic. I still find it shocking that the Government is reinvesting such a small amount of money from a tax that does not work.'

Environment minister Elliot Morley said the funding, channelled through local authorities, would benefit communities in high aggregate production areas.