Clegg hails regional growth funding as next round starts
The Government's flagship plan to boost the economy outside London is today open to bids for an extra £350 million to underwrite jobs-boosting projects.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will say the £2.6 billion Regional Growth Fund has already helped 180 projects get started, creating and safeguarding jobs and attracting "significant" private sector investment.
Firms from across the region will be encouraged to bid for money from the fourth round, with a total of £350 million available.
The fund has already backed a series of projects across the Westcountry.
AgustaWestland's helicopter factory in Yeovil is set to receive up to £46 million of Government cash, which will in part help create a new civil helicopter facility – a first in Britain.
Plymouth-based Plessey Semiconductors is to build a new factory with the cash, and a £3.9 million grant for small business was handed to the Western Morning News and Plymouth University, which will create up to 500 new posts through giving finance to small companies – the second tranche of funding the project has received.
But critics have complained the money is getting out of the door too slowly. Among projects waiting to get cash are a new space exploration venture at Goonhilly Earth Station near Helston, Cornwall.
Today, Mr Clegg will confirm that the 180 projects that have started represent 89% of funded schemes. Together, they will create or safeguard over 500,000 jobs along with attracting £13 billion private sector investment into the economy, he is to say.
He will go on: "The Regional Growth Fund is already proving a shrewd investment by providing a welcome boost to jobs and growth across the country, with thousands of jobs created, businesses expanding into new markets and manufacturing new products.
"With this next round of funding, I would urge England's budding businesses to produce top quality bids to access the money that can help them grow.
"There'll be stiff competition, and we can only invest in those projects that will lead to sustainable jobs and the best value for money. Boosting jobs and growth is our number one priority for Britain right now.
"That is why I am so pleased to be opening a fourth round of the Regional Growth Fund which supports growth across a range of industries."
The Government says that for every pound of state money, the private sector is putting in six pounds.
The next round will close to applications on March 20. Potential applicants are being encouraged to attend expressions of interest events in their region. A date and venue for a South West event has yet to be set.
Critics have claimed the South West got five times more money via Labour's Regional Development Agency than through the Regional Growth Fund.
Mr Clegg has responded that the cash is attracting ten times more match-funding from the private sector, which meant it was delivering "more bang for our buck".
Business Minister Michael Fallon said: "The Regional Growth Fund is playing a pivotal role in supporting business and enterprise. Jobs are being created, money is being invested and the fund is making a difference. This additional round will help keep the momentum going."