Agenda item

Grant Panel Report Round 2 - 2012/13 (Agenda item 7)

Report of Lynda Turner, Executive Member for Localism, Community & Environmental Services.

 

Members’ attention is drawn to the fact that the reports at appendices 1 and 2 are under a different Portfolio. Mark Kiddle-Morris, the Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development will present these particular reports when discussed.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Localism, Community & Environmental Services presented the Grant Panel report and drew attention to the fact that the reports at appendices 1 and 2 were under a different Portfolio – the Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development would be presenting these.

 

Members were informed that the first application submitted by the Swaffham Community Transport Project, had raised a few concerns but following re-submission and further advice the application had been approved under delegated powers.  This proved that the Grant Panel did consider every application and only agreed to applications that met with the relevant criteria.

 

The Executive Member for Performance & Business Development thanked Breckland Council for granting both applications for Swaffham. 

 

Mr Bambridge also thanked Breckland Council for the funding granted for improvements to the roof at Foxley Village Hall.  The hall was well kept and was used by many people in the community.  It also had a very active committee.

 

The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development drew Members’ attention to appendices 1 and 2 of the report.  Appendix 1 sought support for £15,000 to be released from the Match Funding Reserve to enhance and enable phase 4 of the ongoing Breckland Enterprise & Learning Account (BELA) project.  This funding would enable the Council to assist emerging and struggling small/micro businesses in the Breckland area with 10 employees or less.  Each business would be offered a small grant of up to £500 to put towards training, advice or small items of equipment of which the applicants were required to match fund 50%.

 

With regard to Appendix 2, Norfolk County Council had recognised the need for a Norfolk-wide business support programme by providing a budget of £200,000.  Breckland Council had been allocated £80,000 and was being asked to support this grant with a proportion of Match Funding of £20,000 per year for two years.  The recommendation was highlighted.

 

The Executive Member for Planning & Environmental Services asked if agreeing to Match Fund would be prudent in these difficult economic times.

 

The Opposition Leader felt encouraged by both the aforementioned applications as he was well aware that many new businesses lacked such crucial support. 

 

Referring to the BELA grant, the Executive Member for Performance & Business Development did not consider the small amount of funding offered to these businesses to be of much benefit.  A number of Members disagreed and felt that it would be money well spent.

 

In response to a question about the Business Support Programme, Members were informed that the amount of funding being offered to other districts was unknown. 

 

The Chairman felt that at this time, when the economy was stalling, we as a Council needed to support and encourage the economy.  He did, however, have a slight concern about the similarities between the two schemes.  The Senior Economic Development Officer explained that the BELA scheme was to assist start up micro businesses with the offer of a small grant.  The latter scheme was not offering money only advice.

 

The Chairman wanted to know if accepting the grant from Norfolk County Council would involve the need to employ more staff. He also wanted to know whether it would be better to give the money straight to County so that it could take sole responsibility of the support scheme rather than devolving such funding to each district. In response to the first question, Members were informed that no further staff would be required; the monies from County would be used to hire consultants through a tender process.  These consultants would be purchased to provide bespoke training, advice and guidance, providing additional professional support for new and existing struggling businesses.  In response to the latter question, the Senior Economic Development Officer advised that Norfolk County Council had mentored such a programme before but unfortunately, it had only benefited businesses in the Norwich area.

 

The Overview & Scrutiny Commission Chairman was clear what this money would be used for but was unclear whether Breckland Council had to source the different suppliers/consultants itself. He thought that this scheme could continue beyond two years; if it did, he hoped that Breckland Council could build up some expertise.  The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development explained that the authority already had a framework of various consultants who could be called in for different jobs as and when required.

 

The options in the report were highlighted and the Executive Member for Performance & Business Development asked if it would be prudent to take the £80,000 on offer but not authorise the additional funding. Members were informed that the additional funding would be used to re-visit those businesses that had been trained and would be based on a review of the outcomes achieved.

 

Mr Bambridge mentioned the mentoring that he had been provided with when he first started up his business which had also been partly funded by a Council initiative.  This type of assistance had helped him a great deal and he urged the Cabinet to support both schemes.

 

There was some confusion about what each sum of money would be used for and whether both schemes were one of the same.

 

The Economic Development Officer clarified that the £80k grant from NCC would be used to achieve the target of 30 new business starts per year and pay for specific business start-up training and mentoring, concentrating on the first steps towards self-employment including identifying skills, funding, writing business plans, business basics and finance etc.  The Match Funding request would be used to enhance the project to provide continued support to individuals who had benefited from the scheme already but needed support at their most vulnerable stage or for those who required additional mentoring or bespoke training to start their business.

 

The Executive Member for Performance & Business Development stated that in these challenging times, he wanted assurance that Breckland Council would be getting real value from both these schemes.  He felt that the funding from Norfolk County Council should be accepted then Officers return at a later date with evidence that this scheme had been worthwhile; the additional funding could then be released.  The Opposition Leader reminded Members that the additional funding was being requested to embed the support that the businesses had already received from County’s funding to ensure that these businesses kept going in the future.

 

It was the future that the Chairman had concerns with and he highlighted the report on page 33 of the agenda – the £2.5m Council deficit.  He agreed that the funding from County should be accepted as mentioned by the Executive Member above but he felt that the BELA grant should be refused and the money be used to keep existing struggling businesses going.  He challenged the Portfolio Holder to consider how this money should be spent.  

 

The proposal was clarified and it was agreed that the funding from Norfolk County Council be accepted but the £40,000 additional Match Funding and the BELA grant be refused, and the Portfolio Holder be asked to come back with proposals of how Breckland Council supported business start ups in future.

 

Options

 

a)     Breckland Enterprise & Learning Account

 

·        To approve the match funding for Breckland Enterprise & Learning Account (BELA 4) to the value of £15,000.

 

·        To approve a lesser amount of match funding towards Breckland Enterprise & Learning Account (BELA 4).

 

·        To decline the match funding.

 

b)     Enterprise Support  Programme in Norfolk

 

·        To accept the £80k NCC grant and to authorise the release of £40k over a two year period to enable a high level of enhanced support for business start ups.

 

·        To accept the £80k NCC grant and to authorise the release of a lesser amount of additional funding which will enable a lower level of enhanced support for business start ups.

 

·        To accept the £80k NCC grant and not to authorise any additional funding and offer no additional support for business start ups after the initial training.

 

·        Not to accept the £80k NCC grant.

 

Reasons

 

See report.

 

RESOLVED that:

 

a)     Breckland Enterprise & Learning Account (BELA) Phase 4

 

The Match Funding application for the amount of £15,000 be refused.

 

b)     Breckland Support Programme in Norfolk

 

1)     The £80,000 grant from Norfolk County Council to deliver business start-up support throughout the District be accepted; and

 

2)     the request for additional funding of £20,000 per year for two years from Breckland’s Match Funding Reserve be refused.

Supporting documents: