THE Government Office for the North-East has made headway in tapping into European cash fund for deprived communities.

Objective 2 cash, from the European Regional Development Fund, is used for projects which contribute towards economic regeneration.

The target for the end of this year is to bid successfully for £100m and there are fears that the region may miss out on some of the cash.

On Friday, the Government Office for the North-East (Gone) said it had secured £78.4m for projects with a further £20m awaiting appraisal.

The schemes have to have match funding.

Wear Valley District councillors are in the process of compiling a bid for money to upgrade unmade streets and are awaiting support from Durham County Council.

Schemes that have been successful include £500,000 for the National Railway Museum project at Shildon, County Durham.

Durham County Council has set up a European Task Force, including senior members from Gone and regional development agency One NorthEast, to make urgent decisions to ensure money is bid for.

Bob Ward, head of economic development and regeneration at the county council, said: "I think the North-East region is taking this extremely seriously and in a very positive fashion, which is not necessarily the case across the rest of the country.

"We've made substantial progress but we're not yet in a position to say precisely whether it's going to be sufficient."

Councillor Chris Foote-Wood, a member of the North-East Regional Assembly's European group and chairman of Dene Valley Parish Council, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, said: "If this money is not claimed by the end of the year, then we will lose it.

"Obviously, there are strings attached but the money is available. We're hoping to encourage other local authorities to make claims."

Plans for the new streets project bid will be discussed at a meeting of Dene Valley Parish Council on Friday.