Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent to receive £90m to help firms take on staff
TENS of millions could be invested in job creation projects under plans to hand more European cash to the region.
The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is set to name Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent as a ‘transition region’, which would unlock between £70 million and £90 million in extra finance.
Cash would be channelled into support and incentives for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as research schemes at sites like Keele Science Park and investment in green energy.
It comes after Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire bid for a £1 billion ‘city deal’ from central Government.
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The bid is designed to create 50,000 jobs and double the size of the region’s economy by winning new powers over how Government funding is spent locally.
County council leader Philip Atkins travelled to meet Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, to discuss the additional European funding.
If signed off by the ERDF, Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent will be named as a transition region, alongside Shropshire and Telford.
The ERDF has remained tight-lipped over which regions will be handed the lucrative status.
But Mr Atkins said: “We’re at the top of the tree nationally in terms of being one of the best areas for attracting investment and new jobs.
“I travelled to meet Commissioner Hahn, and the news from Europe is that Staffordshire, Shropshire, Stoke-on-Trent and Telford and Wrekin will be a transition area.
“That could be worth between £70 million and £90 million in additional funding for those four council areas.
“And it is worth pointing out that we have got more than half of the population – so we should be up for it.”
The extra European cash, designed to increase economic output in areas where it falls below the European average, would be spent between 2014 and 2020.
It would be handed down in ring-fenced grants for specific schemes designed to boost jobs and economic growth.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council said officers have already begun drawing up draft plans for funding bids.
Council leader Mohammed Pervez said: “The potential for Staffordshire and Shropshire to be a transition region is very welcome news for our area.
“Officers are currently undertaking preparatory actions so that, subject to this new status being confirmed, the area is ready to make maximum use of the funding available.”
The Sentinel reported last week how European funding of £543,000, set to be doubled by contributions from councils, will be spent on supporting businesses to attract millions more tourists to the county and city.