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UK CHARITIES are to take legal advice in a bid to recover millions of pounds of debt from the European Union.
Their efforts coincide with a European Commission condemnation of late payments by European businesses.
The charities are having to borrow money from the Trustee Savings Bank at one per cent above base rate to continue with their activities.
Naval charity Inter-Action has taken up the cudgels with a threat to sue the EU. Chief executive Ed Berman says: "It is an absolute scandal that the EU should be making statements complaining about late payments when its own systems delay payments to charities like us for more than a year.
"Until now this has been treated as a political problem rather than a legal one. But unless we act now charities and small companies will go under."
He stresses that whichever firm challenges the EU will have to take instructions on a pro bono basis.
Payments are owed to some 400 charities for help on employment and development projects. Berman has already written to the Norton Rose M5 Group, which has promised to look into the matter.
But Norton Rose ruled itself out of any involvement. Administrative director Patrick Stone says: "Our Brussels office is just too busy. We can't do any pro bono work at the moment. But we are sympathetic and efforts are being made to find another firm within the group which would be prepared to take this on."