Fund bid knockback is a ‘slap in the face’

THE Government’s rejection of a Regional Growth Fund bid to support the creation of small businesses across five counties including Suffolk and Essex has been slammed as a “slap in the face”.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk joined forces with the five county councils plus Medway, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock Unitary Authorities to submit the bid.

But while there was disappointment at the knock-back, Essex and Suffolk are celebrating this week after gaining a share of the Growing Places Fund, aimed at kick-starting housing and infrastructure development. The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is set to receive �12million and the South East LEP �32m from the fund.

The unsuccessful apprenticeship bid was aimed at supporting the creation of new apprenticeship places within small and medium sizes companies across the counties.

Essex FSB chairman Iain Wicks said: “This was a unique application that brought together the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) in an innovative application to create more than 3,500 much needed jobs for young people while at the same time supporting the growth of small businesses which the Prime Minister David Cameron and his Government have repeatedly said will rescue our ailing economy.

“Sadly it seems the vision contained in this application was one which could not be understood by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Lord Heseltine, Secretaries of State Vince Cable and Eric Pickles and the others on the panel considering these applications and this week we were told they had rejected the application. At the moment we have no explanation why the bid was rejected but what we do know is that this decision is a slap in the face for small businesses looking for a small amount of Government support, around �2,500 each – to provide employment and training for an unemployed young person in our area.

“We will be asking why an application described as ‘very strong’ has been rejected in this way and will be pressing the Government to think again about how they can help create this type of job in small businesses.”

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A Department for Business spokesperson said: “There has been really strong interest in the �1.4billion Regional Growth Fund. Both rounds generated 492 bids for a total of �3.3billion. Each of these bids was in open competition with each other and the Independent Advisory Panel were only able to select the very best bids, offering the greatest value for money.”

Andy Wood, chair of New Anglia LEP said: “It is of course disappointing that some excellent bids were not successful and at new Anglia we’ll continue to work with partners with an aim to future success in any new applications that are made.”

Essex County Councillor Stephen Castle, Cabinet Member for Education said: “This funding would have been a great boost to SMEs within Essex and the region to develop their work force and also tackle the issue of youth unemployment which has been highlighted across the country.”

Kevin Bentley, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Waste added: “Essex County Council will continue to support businesses within the Essex economy despite resources being squeezed more than ever before. We will continue to support and make applications for various funding streams which will provide opportunities like this in the future.”