West Midland LEPs set to benefit from £730m of European funding

EUROPEAN funding worth £731.5m has been awarded to the West Midlands’ six Local Enterprise Partnerships as part of the settlement from the new European Union Growth Programme.

The money, which has been allocated over a seven year period from 2014 to 2020, was confirmed in a statement from Business Secretary Vince Cable.

The package given to the West Midlands is part of as £5.32bn settlement awarded to the 39 LEPs around the country.

Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP is the largest beneficiary with £219.5m (€255.8m), followed by Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire with £138.7m (€161.6m). Coventry and Warwickshire receives £116.7m (€136m); Black Country £100.7m (€117.4m); The Marches £97.6m (€113.7m).

The smallest settlement has been awarded to Worcestershire at £58.3m (€68.1m).

Making the announcement, Mr Cable said: “The government has given a commitment that the Growth Programme Funds will be allocated to Local Enterprise Partnership areas as an important new source of finance to stimulate local growth and jobs.

“This marks a significant shift from previous European programmes which were substantially centralised with limited local involvement in many key areas. Under this new model, decision-making powers will be transferred from Whitehall to local areas.

“LEPs and local partners will be in charge of European funds that will provide significant investment in innovation, business, skills and employment in a common agenda for growth and jobs that will integrate effectively with wider LEP Strategic Plans.”

The funding helps to soften the blow of a disappointing Spending Review by the Government in terms of local funding. However, it falls short of the full devolving of spending powers recommended by Lord Heseltine in his No Stone Unturned economic review.

Despite being the recipient of the smallest award, Peter Pawsey, executive chair of the Worcestershire LEP said the area was grateful for the money.

“We welcome this significant investment in the county and will now be concentrating our efforts on developing a detailed investment strategy and growth plan for the funds,” he said.

“The WLEP allocation will go towards providing the resources we need to achieve our ambitions.  We look forward to working with Ministers and officials to bring our European Union Investment Strategy and resultant plans to fruition.”   

LEPs are required to submit their final plans to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills by the spring of 2014.

Allocations are subject to final agreement on the 2014-2020 Budget in the European Parliament.