Agenda item

Extension of Existing European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme for the Council's current funded Local Enterprise Growth and Efficiency(LEGE) 'Grants4Growth' Programme (Agenda item 7)

Report of Mark Kiddle-Morris, Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development presented the report which asked for Members’ guidance on an opportunity to increase East of England European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funding for the existing Local Enterprise Growth and Efficiency (LEGE) project/Grants4Growth Programme to deliver additional outputs.

 

Additional papers were circulated that summarised the ERDF backed project.

 

The Low Carbon Growth Programme Manager stated that demand for the support from the Project had been significantly greater than anticipated.  The delivery pipeline (i.e. committed private sector match funding) was already £5.8 million after six months, against a two year target of just £5 million. 36.4% of grants settled and 43% of grant value settled was within the Breckland area.  The Bulletin that had been circulated highlighted the value of these grants.  This funding helped businesses to invest and grow in the future.

 

It was noted that the Project Management Team had been informally approached by the ERDF Programme about extending the Project’s value.  There was certainly a clear demand for this funding and the Low Carbon Growth Programme Manager could not see any additional risks by bidding for this additional £2 million.  There would be no additional costs incurred by Breckland as all direct costs were eligible ERDF expenses and would be reclaimed through the Project.

 

The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development said that the Grants4Growth had enabled £20k grants to be given to businesses.  This extra funding, if the bid was accepted, would be used for 20 super grants totalling £100k each.  Submissions for such grants would be requested by a certain date.  He urged the Cabinet to support the recommendation.

 

The Chairman pointed out that this report should be considered in conjunction with agenda item 11, the references from the Overview & Scrutiny Commission, where this report had been well received.

 

The Overview & Scrutiny Commission Chairman said that the Project Management Team had provided the O&SC with a very good presentation and the main focus had been on how the grants would be allocated.  He felt that there would be great demand for this funding and suggested a second stage in the process to assess how the applications should be judged.  He hoped that this initiative would be marketed and put in the public arena as soon as possible.

 

Option A: the do-nothing option.

The Project management did not apply for £2 million+ of additional funding. The existing ERDF-funded grant pot of £2.54 million would be matched with £5 million+ of private sector investment in growth. A number of significant opportunities to catalyse transformative growth in SMEs would be unrealised.

 

Option B:

Grants4Growth was re-profiled and additional ERDF funding sought. This would increase the size of the grants pot to £4.54 million and leverage £9 million+ of private sector investment. Total ERDF funding would increase from £3,361,423 to £5,396,561, reflecting the £2 million increase in the size of the grants pot and £35,138 to cover additional administrative costs incurred in managing the new supergrant facility (such as salaries/subcontracts to cover the extra responsibilities around investment due diligence, marketing of the facility, travel associated with the grant applications process, and technical consultancy to assist with feasibility work around the specific initiatives being presented for appraisal by the Grants Panel.

 

Option B was recommended. The Economic Development Service’s track record of delivery and performance under scrutiny/audit meant that DCLG considered the Project and its management/governance/oversight structures to be ‘lower than low risk’. If DCLG was unable to allocate funding before the end of 2013, the funding allocation would be returned to central government and then to the EU Commission.

 

Reasons

 

There were likely to be no further opportunities to access additional ERDF funding during the current programme. The LEP-administered operational programmes for the 2014-2020 EU structural funds were unlikely to be in any position to begin allocating funds until late 2014. This proposal represented, therefore, the only real opportunity for capacity building during the immediate future and was clearly aligned to established business demand/need.

 

RECOMMEND to 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.

Supporting documents: