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Bid to help struggling communities by designating them "assisted areas"
SWATHES of the North-East were named as “assisted areas” yesterday – but they may not receive a penny of extra money.
Ministers said the status – lasting through to the end of the decade - could be a “shot in the arm” by attracting businesses and jobs to struggling communities.
Those areas would be “eligible to bid” for extra funding, including through the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), and for tax breaks to bring derelict properties back into use.
But they also admitted firms outside “assisted areas” are also entitled to put in applications and receive Government cash and tax cuts.
Furthermore, the Coalition was sharply criticised three years ago when it axed a key assistance scheme - called Grants for Business Investment (GBI) – for assisted areas.
Worse, Scotland and Wales will continue with specific grant aid to persuade firms to set up in their assisted areas – aid abolished in England.
The new map, published by the department for business, innovation and skills (BIS), includes extra wards in Darlington and western parts of County Durham.
Michael Fallon, the business minister, said: “Assisted Area status can be a shot in the arm for growth and jobs across the UK.
“It makes local businesses eligible to bid for additional funding and support that can help them to create jobs, invest in new premises or machinery, develop and grow.”
But the small print of the announcement acknowledged: “Assisted Area status does not guarantee regional aid funding.
“Businesses in other parts of the country can still receive support, including RGF and AMSCI [Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative}, for a wide range of projects.”
Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said: “Awarding schemes with elaborate titles is meaningless without resources and finance.”
The GBI scheme dated back to the early Seventies under different names, including regional selective assistance – before it was axed in 2011.
Between 2004 and 2010, it was credited with pumping in £112m in grants to the North-East, creating or protecting 25,000 jobs.
Critics say the problem with the regional growth fund is that most successful applications are for £1m-plus, rather than for smaller amounts of investment aid.
Furthermore, the programme has been heavily oversubscribed and dogged by lengthy delays before the cash is handed over.
LIST OF WARDS IN ‘ASSISTED AREAS’.
County Durham: Annfield Plain, Aycliffe East, Aycliffe Northl, Aycliffe West, Barnard Castle East, Belmont, Bishop Auckland Town, Brandon, Burnopfield and Dipton, Chilton, Consett North, Coundon, Craghead and South Moor, Dawdon, Delves Lane and Consett South, Deneside, Durham South, Easington, Elvet, Evenwood, Ferryhill, Gilesgate, Horden, Leadgate and Medomsley, Murton, Neville's Cross, Pelton, Peterlee East, Peterlee West, Seaham, Sedgefield, Shildon East, Shildon West, Shotton, Spennymoor and Middlestone, Stanley, Tanfield, Trimdon, Tudhoe, West Auckland, Willington, Woodhouse Close.
Darlington: Bank Top, Central, Eastbourne, Faverdale, Heighington & Coniscliffe, Lingfield, Middleton St. George, Sadberge and Whessoe.
Hartlepool: Brus, Dyke House, Elwick, Fens, Foggy Furze, Greatham, Rossmere, St. Hilda, Seaton, Stranton.
Middlesbrough: Ayresome, Clairville, Coulby Newham, Gresham, North Ormesby and Brambles Farm, Middlehaven, Pallister, Stainton and Thornton, University.
Stockton-on-Tees: Billingham Central, Billingham East, Billingham North, Billingham South, Billingham West, Bishopsgarth & Elm Tree, Eaglescliffe, Fairfield, Grangefield, Hardwick, Hartburn, Mandale & Victoria, Newtown, Northern Parishes, Norton North, Norton South, Norton West, Oarkfield & Oxbridge, Roseworth, Stainsby Hill, Stockton Town Centre, Village, Western Parishes
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