Task force for city 'should get its own kick-start cash'
A TASK force charged with overseeing the economic development of Plymouth should get its own kick-start cash, say the Liberal Democrats.
Delegates at the party conference in Brighton are calling for the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which covers Plymouth, to be able to operate its own growth fund, which it could use to support schemes to support the economy.
The LEP would be able to bid to the Government's Regional Growth Fund to secure the cash under proposals agreed by the party.
It was among a range of measures approved at the conference aimed at revitalising the economy and creating jobs.
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Others included turning parts of the state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland into local, community banks, and expanding apprenticeships which would be linked to major public infrastructure projects.
Private sector firms and public-private partnerships were invited to bid for a share of the £1.4billion Regional Growth Fund during two bidding rounds during 2011.
A third bidding round offering an additional £1billion closed to application earlier this summer.
Set up following the decision to scrap regional development agencies, its aim is to boost the economy and create jobs.
But it has come in for criticism due to delays in awarding grants.
An influential Commons spending watchdog said recently it was "highly disappointed" so few final approvals had been given and projects started under the Regional Growth Fund.
Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) point out that after two years only a third of the offers had been finalised, and only £60million of the earmarked £1.4million had actually been spent on frontline projects – just four per cent.
As a result only a fraction of the expected jobs had been created.
The Herald reported last week how the LEP would receive £125,000 this financial year to help with running costs.
It will also be in line to net up to £250,000 in Whitehall cash annually for the next two years on the condition it is match-funded locally.
Since being set up LEPs have only received a small amount of start-up funding from central government.