Bureaucracy fear hits bids for growth funds
NORTH Staffordshire businesses have failed to come forward to bid for a share of £1 billion in Government cash.
Collectively the region is putting forward bids for around £10 million from the latest round of the Government's Regional Growth Fund (RGF).
But, ahead of the deadline of noon on Wednesday, the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership has revealed that the fund has been "under-subscribed".
Chairman Maitland Hyslop said he believes the Government's reputation for bureaucracy has put potential bidders off.
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He said: "Overall the region is looking for about £10 million. The bidders include two major PLCs in Stoke-on-Trent and we also have some co-operative bids to deliver business support."
The RGF, which aims to boost economic growth and create sustainable employment outside London, has already allocated £1.4 billion. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced in February that firms would be able to apply for a share of a further £1 billion.
Ministers say the idea is that the Government cash will lead to a much bigger private investment from the firms involved.
In round one, six out of seven North Staffordshire bids were turned down, with engineering giant Alstom in Stafford the only application to be approved. However, the Prince's Regeneration Trust was successful in its bid for a contribution towards the regeneration of Middleport Pottery.
The region fared much better in the second round of bidding, the results of which were announced last November. Winners included Steelite International in Middleport, which was granted £2.1 million towards a new £12 million factory next to its current base and Penkhull-based Ceram, which received a similar amount to help develop cost-effective ceramics-firing technology.
Stoke-on-Trent Regeneration Ltd (the joint venture between Stoke-on-Trent City Council and developer St Modwen) was handed £2.5 million to improve access and infrastructure at the Etruria Valley Business Park, and Moorland & City Railways was offered £1.65 million to reopen a line between Leekbrook, near Leek, and Stoke-on-Trent.
In South Cheshire, luxury car-maker Bentley has had two bids approved for a total of £4.7 million. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited its headquarters in Crewe in April to announce the second grant – £3 million towards engine research and development – had been officially signed off.
But in North Staffordshire several firms are still waiting for final approval and Mr Hyslop said he believes it's the perceived level of bureaucracy involved that has put companies off from coming forward for round three.
He said: "The second round was fantastic, we got a lot of support.
"This latest round has been under-subscribed. People could still come forward – you can make bids for anything from a factory expansion to training.
"I think it's the bureaucracy that is putting people off, but it's worth it.
"And the forms and process have been simplified this time around."
The guidance for potential bidders from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills assures them that the application forms for round three have been made simpler and shorter, while it is also setting time limits this time around for agreeing the terms and conditions of bids and completing due diligence.
Announcing the extra cash in February, Mr Clegg said: "The Regional Growth Fund is already having a huge impact across the UK. So far there have been more than 170 successful bids to the fund, leveraging around £7.5 billion of private sector investment which is set to create and protect 330,000 jobs.
"I want to see more businesses that are confident they can create jobs and get Britain building and making things again, coming forward – making sure their hats are in the ring."
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