Friday, 04 September 2015

Firms urged to use £6m grant money - or lose it

West Cumbrian firms have been urged to use £6.6m allocated to help create over 1,000 jobs - or risk it being returned to central government.

The ‘Investing in Business’ programme was launched in September by Britain’s Energy Coast with hopes that it would stimulate growth in Copeland and Allerdale and unlock a further £31m in private investment.

But today new BEC chief executive Steven Szostak revealed that so far just one company had been given money from fund – a grant of £45,000.

He made an impassioned plea to a meeting of the Britain’s Energy Coast Business Cluster for more people to come forward and claim the money or it could be lost. 

“This September we’re facing the embarrassing risk that this money will go back to central government and we cannot have money going from west Cumbria back to government,” he said. 

“I’ve been involved in grant schemes and finding grants for many years and you’d think you would be inundated with people asking for money, but it seems with this grant scheme that nobody wants it,” he added. 

So far 50 people have asked questions about the scheme, seven have asked for more information and one has seen its grant approved – figures which Mr Szostak described as “shocking”.

He added: “I spoke to the successful company to see if they could shed light on it and they were disappointed it took four weeks, but four weeks is not a lot to get £45,000 in your back pocket for a project that you were probably going to do anyway.”

The ‘Investing in Business’ programme is aimed at supporting capital spending in the manufacturing, processing and engineering companies, especially those in the nuclear and renewable energy supply chain.

Grants of £10,000 upwards are available for businesses operating in Allerdale and Copeland, or for those looking to move to the area. The deadline for applications is September 30. 

Mr Szostak said that the scheme worked out at £10,000 funding per job, but could be higher.

Businesses should be able to write an expression of interest “in their sleep” and could get help with the business plan that would be needed to secure funding. 

“We are looking for companies that looking at capital spending – such as buying plant machinery – and projects that are ready or almost ready or on the starting blocks and maybe people just want to take the financial sting out of the investment.

“You do not have to demonstrate a financial need for the grant – we are not about backing losers but backing winners.”

BECBC chairman, Sean Balmer, who is commercial director of the NDA said Government grants for business support was Olympic sports funding – if it wasn’t used well “and you don’t get the gold medals you won’t get the money next time round and it will go to somebody else.”

Click here for  more information at the Britain's Energy Coast website 

Have your say


Posted by Jeff on 7 February 2013 at 09:33

Oh no... businesses finally figuring out that taxpayer grants via quango's are not all they are cracked up to be...

Posted by Tony on 6 February 2013 at 18:09

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