Major investment funds coming to Worcestershire
Over the past month, we have been encouraged by news from several Government departments announcing forthcoming investment funds for our region.
We heard early last month that the Department for Transport had awarded £4.9 million from its ‘Pinch Point’ fund to support the second phase of the Hoobrook Link Road development in Kidderminster. This money will be used towards the completion of a vital link road, connecting the busy Stourport Road with the Worcester Road, improving access to the town and therefore alleviating serious traffic congestion particularly at peak times. It will also release further large areas of land for housing and employment development.
We had confirmation in the Government’s Spending Review of a £2 billion growth fund to be awarded to England’s 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships. Although this is a one year deal only, the accompanying commitment to a further five years’ support is a clear indication that LEPs are set to sit centre stage in future growth policy. Indeed, further information last week has clarified that in addition to the initial £2bn in year 1, we are in effect now charged with making our case for a further minimum of £1bn for each of the following 5 years as the major projects part of the Department for Transport, Highways Agency funding, so it is actually an initial £7bn bid that we will be working towards. We were, however, disappointed that the Government had failed to back the stronger financial commitment proposed in Lord Heseltine’s recent No Stone Unturned
More specifically and within those major project sums already committed or identified is a massive piece of potential good news for Worcestershire. Additional funding is set to come our way following the announcement from Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, of £140 million for improvements to the M5 and the creation of a ‘managed motorway’ system between Junction 4a (M42 at Bromsgrove) and J6 (Sixways). The LEP greatly welcomes the increased capacity and benefits this work will bring, particularly around Junction 6 of the motorway which is critical to our ambitions for development not only of a Worcester Technology Park but also of anything else of significance across the south or middle of the county. The resultant scheme will be similar to that on the M42 around to the NEC and Birmingham Airport.
Worcestershire LEP is also set to receive an allocation of €68.1 million from a new EU Growth Programme for the seven year period from 2014-2020 (subject to final agreement on the 2014-2020 budget in the European Parliament). This comes from the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund and is a good settlement for Worcestershire.
Finally, under Phase 4 of the Regional Growth Fund we can celebrate three more first stage successes totalling over £6 million in potential grant funding. Malvern Instruments will receive £3m to build a new R&D facility and to create nearly 50 new jobs, £2m has been earmarked for a Business Growth Fund and £1.5m for a redundant Buildings Grant programme, jointly with The Marches LEP (Herefordshire, Shropshire and The Wrekin).
China comes to town!
Towards the end of June, we were pleased to welcome a delegation of Chinese visitors to Worcestershire. The delegation was led by Grace Pan Ming, Vice Mayor of Hezhou City, who graduated from the University of Worcester with a Masters Degree only five years ago.
The visit was organised by Worcestershire Ambassadors and included trips to Malvern Instruments, Evesham Vale Growers and the site of the proposed Worcester Technology Park (off Junction 6 of the M5).
Our Chair, Peter Pawsey, attended a networking breakfast for the delegation, where he presented an overview of Worcestershire’s economy, the role of the LEP and its aims for the future of the region.
The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise
The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise is one of the UK’s most prestigious business awards, bestowed each year by Her Majesty The Queen to recognise and encourage the achievements of businesses in the UK.
Businesses can enter for an award in three categories: Innovation, International Trade and Sustainable Development.
Also available is the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion that recognises individuals who have played an outstanding role in promoting the growth of business enterprise and/or entrepreneurial skills and attitudes in others.
Entry is by nomination only. Up to ten awards are made each year.
Further details, application and nomination forms are available at: https://queensawards.bis.gov.uk/Information
or phone 020 7 215 6880.
The closing date for all entries and nominations is 30 September.
AMION appointed to work with WLEP
Following a formal tendering process, we are pleased to announce the appointment of specialist consultancy AMION to work with the LEP to develop its proposals for the Growth Fund and EU Growth Programme. This will be informed by the strategic objectives already outlined in our Business Plan, “The Outlook is Bright in Worcestershire’.
Draft plans have to be submitted to BIS in the Autumn, with final submissions due by the Spring of 2014.
New Regulations toolkit
The WLEP Business Regulations sub group met in June to plan future actions. Chaired by Ed Webb, Chairman of Webbs Garden Centres Ltd, membership of the group comprises private businesses and representatives from membership organisations such as the Federation for Small Businesses and the National Farmers’ Union. Worcestershire Regulatory Services are lead partners.
The group will in the first instance be working on the development of tools to support start up businesses. The aim is to provide clear guidance to help them understand their regulatory obligations. The initial focus will be particularly on food sector businesses.
The anticipated launch date will be to coincide with the WLEP Conference being held on 10 October.