Extension of existing ERDF funded LEGE/Grants4Growth Programme (Agenda Item 6)
Report of the Economic Development Manager.
Simon Best, Programme Manager and Susan Smith, Financial Claims Manager, introduced themselves to Members.
The Programme Manager presented the report. The Council had been approached by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) with a proposal to take more money to extend the existing Local Enterprise Growth and Efficiency (LEGE)/Grants4Growth Programme. The additional funding would have no resource implications and would enable the provision of larger grants of £100,000. With the smaller grants it was very difficult to provide evidence of cost savings. However, with larger grants savings, efficiencies and additional jobs could be more easily identified.
Councillor Gilbert supported the proposal but asked for clarification of the term ‘intervention rate’ mentioned on page 10. It was explained that the term referred to the maximum percentage funding that would be provided to any project.
Councillor Joel asked whether it would be possible to spend the additional funding before the project concluded at the end of 2013. He was advised that the project would actually run until December 2015. The 2013 date referred to the period when money would be clawed back from any underperforming projects. It was confirmed that there was plenty of time to spend the money and demand for the funding was high. The biggest issue would be ensuring that it was distributed fairly.
Councillor Bambridge asked if the funding was for new businesses only and the Programme Manager explained that the funding was for new and existing small and medium ‘enterprises’ whose work involved implicit transactions. Therefore businesses, charities and voluntary organisations could apply.
The Chairman asked how the funding would be awarded. The most likely way would be by ‘open call’. Applications would be submitted which explained the merits of a project and they would be compared on a like for like basis with those providing the greatest outputs being successful. It was hoped that that process could commence by the end of Quarter One in 2014. That would give sufficient time for active marketing if there was not enough interest.
The Chairman asked whether £2million was the right sum; would it be sufficient or would it be a struggle to spend it?
The Programme Manager advised that it was a conservative sum which reflected the very real and latent demand with minimum risk to the Council.
Finally the Chairman asked whether the money would all be spent within the Breckland area. It was pointed out that the money was for the project target area which covered the four Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) zones which included a large part of East Anglia. However, it was noted that out of 44 grants awarded so far, 16 had been within Breckland District.
RESOLVED to RECOMMEND TO CABINET & COUNCIL that the offer of additional funding of £2 million from the East of England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme for the Council’s current Local Enterprise Growth and Efficiency project (LEGE), branded as Grants4Growth, be accepted.
The Chairman said it was great news for Breckland and wished the Officers good luck with the project.