A £21million fund to support new businesses in Northumberland was quietly dropped by the county council after it was decided it wasn’t required.
As part of the budget process last year, councillors approved a medium-term financial plan for 2018-21, which included an allocation of £7million a year for a loans fund to support start-up businesses.
However, there was no mention of this fund as part of the refreshed medium-term plan for 2019-22, which was approved alongside the 2019-20 budget last Wednesday (February 20).
The local authority has now confirmed that the three-year scheme has been dropped, due to other support being available and a change in focus, and it is understood that none of the £7million earmarked for the current financial year was used either.
A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “Following last year’s budget, it was established that this support for business was already available through the regional JEREMIE (Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises – an EU fund to improve access to finance for small and medium businesses) funds while similar support will form part of the North of Tyne Combined Authority programme.
“Our priorities have become more focused as we have identified where we can make the greatest impact.
“We are focusing on town-centre regeneration, support for specialist sectors such as energy at Blyth, attracting larger employers to the south-east of the county and developing ambitious plans for rural scale-up.
“Advance Northumberland also offers a number of successful support programmes for business and will signpost to other providers.”
According to its website, ‘Advance Northumberland Business provide a high-quality support service to businesses of all sizes.
‘We are committed to working with businesses, partners and external support agencies to ensure your business has what it needs to grow.
‘Business Northumberland is a fully-funded business support programme, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by Advance Northumberland Business.’
The Advance Northumberland website also includes a section highlighting a number of funding opportunities for county businesses – https://www.advancenorthumberland.co.uk/business/funds-available
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service