West Midland LEPs collaborate on £125m access to finance programme

SIX Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the West Midlands have agreed to collaborate on a new £125m Regional Investment Fund set to improve access to finance for hundreds of companies across the region.

The new fund is expected to create or safeguard 9,000 jobs and help 400 new businesses to start up.

The RIF will provide a range of programmes to support growing businesses in the Black Country, Coventry & Warwickshire, Greater Birmingham & Solihull, Marches, Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire and Worcestershire LEP areas.

Each LEP is due to receive an allocation from the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) to support various work in supporting businesses for 2014 and 2020.

As part of the agreement reached by the six LEPs, each will contribute money from their ESIF into a central fund worth more than £50m.

This will enable the LEPs to access an estimated further £75m, creating a £125m Regional Investment Fund to provide a suite of access to finance programmes that may include loans for small businesses, loan guarantees, seed corn equity, growth equity, mezzanine finance and finance as well as finance for innovation and low carbon businesses.

There have been criticisms in some quarters about federal interference from the EU in the UK’s affairs but in this instance with much of the cash being funded by Europe, the LEPs will be free to determine where they want to spend the money.

GBSLEP chair Andy Street said: “This is excellent news for businesses right across the West Midlands and will provide a wide range of funds to help small and medium-sized enterprises that are looking to grow and create jobs.

“By working together and pooling our resources in this way, we will be able to make an even greater impact by leveraging in private sector investment.”

As a result, he said the LEPs would be able to help even more businesses of various sizes with targeted support and finance.

“Although there is still significant work to be done to set up the mechanisms to deliver these funds to businesses, by reaching this agreement we have taken a huge step forward,” he added.