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Bradford firms set to get access to cash pot
Struggling parts of Bradford have been earmarked for an “assisted areas” map – but they may not get any extra money, ministers admitted.
Five wards in the city are included in an expanded list of areas proposed to be eligible for ‘regional selective assistance’, under EU state aid rules.
But the Coalition was sharply criticised two years ago when it axed an assistance scheme – called Grants for Business Investment (GBI) – for those areas.
Asked what extra help the wards would receive, the department of business (BIS) said: “It could mean bids to the regional growth fund are more likely to be successful.”
But the BIS guidance states: “Assisted area status is not a guarantee of any regional aid funding. Businesses in other parts of the country can still receive support, including from RGF.”
To add insult to injury, Scotland and Wales will continue with specific grant aid to persuade firms to set up in their assisted areas.
Gerry Sutcliffe MP (Lab, Bradford South) said the new designation would mean little unless it was backed up with proper money.
He said: “We need real support in Bradford, not meaningless status that doesn’t give financial support to companies to create much needed employment.”
But Michael Fallon, the business minister, insisted being an assisted area could be “enormously beneficial” to companies.
It meant a bid for a grant for premises or machinery could be looked on favourably, while it would be rejected outside the designated zones.
They will be assisted areas for the seven years from 2014 and 2020 if the proposal is confirmed, following a consultation. No Bradford wards have the status currently.
Critics say the problem with the regional growth fund is that most successful applications are for £1m-plus, rather than for smaller amounts of investment aid.
Furthermore, the programme has been heavily oversubscribed and dogged by lengthy delays before the cash is handed over.
The consultation runs until February 7, with a final assisted areas map to be submitted to the European Commission for approval the following month.
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