Wednesday, February 26, 2014

News: LEP submits plan for investing EU funds


As local authorities continue the legal challenge regarding the government's reallocation of 50% of South Yorkshire's European funding, the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has put together a plan for how the funding will be used to create more private sector jobs in the city region.

The Government's new model of local economic growth centres around LEPs, a collaboration between businesses and the local authorities that are placed at the heart of growth in the regions. In response to the Heseltine Review, the Government has charged LEPs with putting together local growth plans that will be the basis on which the Government negotiates deals with each LEP for new levers, resources, funding and flexibility over them.

In the future, LEPs will then be able to bid into a single pot of funding to support their plans.

The LEP's Growth Plan, which has set an ambitious target of creating 70,000 new jobs in the Sheffield city region (SCR) by 2023, was submitted to the Government at the end of last year. The use of structural funding from the EU is likely to be integral to meeting the targets.

The recently submitted EU Structural Investment Fund Strategy sets out how €203m (£175m) of funding will be used, based around six main priorities: supporting and creating new businesses; growing existing businesses; attracting incoming businesses; increasing exporting; developing the skills base and labour mobility; improving and enhancing infrastructure.

The strategy includes a small number of large-scale sub-programmes such as a £16m "Growth Hub" to coordinate business support and provide a single point of contact for all business support services in the city region. Sponsored bespoke packages of support called "Growth Deals" would also be offered to high growth businesses and inward investors.

Another key focus is to compliment existing finance programmes and to address continuing issues relating to access to debt and equity finance. With £24m set aside, this could include a £50m+ loan and equity fund backed by the EU and Finance Yorkshire and the development of specific finance products aimed at small businesses and specialist sectors.

An employer-led "Skills Bank" could also be created that would bring together funding for skills and give more purchasing power to the employers who use the skills system, allowing employers to draw on funding to meet their skills needs.

Regarding infrastructure, interventions include developing Doncaster Sheffield Airport to drive engineering and aerospace activity and a connectivity package regarding the proposed HS2 station location to maximise the predicted economic potential and business growth.

Other areas for investment include social inclusion to ensure that all parts of SCR are able to share in the benefits of economic growth and low carbon that includes proposals for district heating, retrofitting properties and sustainable transport.

James Newman, chairman of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: "Our track record on delivery is second to none, whether you look at our partners' use of the current round of EU funds, or the LEP's record with Government funds, or the city region's forerunner move to establish a Combined Authority. The next step will see us having the strategic oversight of over €200m European programme with governance in place to manage a fair and transparent process.

"This new programme is vitally important and a significant tool to drive growth, create jobs and encourage social inclusion and we remain firmly of the view that given additional resources the impact we propose would be even more significant."

In a debate in Parliament yesterday led by John Healey, the MP for Wentworth and Dearne, it was revealed that the local authorities are planning to appeal the judge's decision regarding the government's methodology for allocation the funding being lawful and rational. Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills responded that the government is looking again at the allocations but is not planning to change the methodology. A decision is expected in the next few weeks but progress could be slowed by the legal challenge.

Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership website

Images: European Commission / Facebook


Jonathan,  February 27, 2014 at 11:45 PM  

This sounds great, no one could argue with a plan to create 70,000 new jobs in the Sheffield city region. Of course it's a power-grab from the already weakened state to steer money into the private sector. Looking forward to seeing how this works out.

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