YOUNG people in the region are missing out on 'Dragons' Den-style' government loans to kick-start businesses - while London and the South-East grab most of the cash.

The Northern Echo: north-south divide

An extraordinary divide has opened up in successful applications to David Cameron's flagship scheme, which offers around £2,500 to budding entrepreneurs.

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Only 14 loans have been handed out in the North-East - just three per cent of the total - and a mere 28 across Yorkshire, accounting for six per cent.

Meanwhile, more than half of loans have been made to young people in either London (157 loans, 34 per cent) or the wider South-East (88 loans, 19 per cent).

The figures are revealed just two weeks after the prime minister announced a major expansion of the Start-Up Loans scheme - adding an extra £30m to the available pot, making a total of £110m over three years.

The age limit for applications was also raised from 24 to 30, in response to what Downing Street said was "high demand". Some 3,000 people are said to have registered an interest in the money.

Mr Cameron said: "Start-Up loans are a great way to help this next generation of entrepreneurs get the financial help - and the confidence - to turn that spark of an idea, into a growing, thriving business."

Tonight (Tuesday, January 15) the department for business (BIS) announced that a further three 'delivery partners' - businesses that provide help to develop viable plans - had been recruited in the North-East.

Until now, only four have been in place. However, a BIS spokeswoman defended that record, saying: "There may not have been interest in the area in becoming a delivery partner.

"We want to make sure as many young people across the North-East as possible can benefit from these loans. The additional three delivery partners should ensure loans are processed more quickly."

The North-East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) suggested there was a lack of available information and advice - a problem common to many business initiatives.

Ross Smith, its director of policy, said: "The tiny percentage of take-up in the North-East is proof that more must be done to promote and raise awareness of available financial initiatives."

The scheme was launched after Mr Cameron received a report suggesting there would be 900,000 more businesses in Britain if it had the same culture of entrepreneurship as the US.

As well as the loan - which can last up to five years, with an interest rate of RPI plus three per cent - the scheme offers mentoring and training.

The entrepreneur James Caan - one of the Dragons in the TV show - is the chairman of the body overseeing the allocation of the loans.

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