Fresh Convergence confusion

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There is fresh confusion today over a funding stream through the ERDF Convergence Programme.

While the Government quietly announced last year in its Spending Review that it was closing the capital grant scheme – Grant for Business Investment (GBI) – it was expected to continue in Cornwall through the Convergence programme, as it requires no Government match funding.

However, it appears as if the Government has now called a moratorium on the entire scheme. The South West RDA (SWRDA), which administers ERDF GBI, announced yesterday that it could no longer accept new applications, but was seeking urgent clarification.

“This decision is bad for Cornwall and bad for Cornish businesses – I very much hope that SWRDA can find a way through it”

In a statement, SWRDA said: “The position regarding GBI grants funded by the European Regional Development Fund (which is the case in the South West) is unclear and we are working to resolve this. Meanwhile we are unable to accept new applications for the time being.”

Ewan McClymont, head of grants at accountancy firm Bishop Fleming in Truro, told Business Cornwall: “There has always been a question over how long SWRDA would be allowed to administer the ERDF GBI Fund, given their pending closure and central Government cuts.

“However, to have to pull the plug overnight with no prior warning has left many businesses that are in the middle of preparing applications high and dry.”

It would appear to be a similar scenario to last summer, when the future of the whole Convergence programme was thrown into doubt. That chaos and confusion was cleared up fairly quickly, and McClymont hopes the same will be the case this time around.

He added: “We are working with a number of clients both in Cornwall and Plymouth, who could greatly benefit from this money, create and safeguard jobs, and deliver the growth that the Government so badly needs right now.

“This decision is bad for Cornwall and bad for Cornish businesses – I very much hope that SWRDA can find a way through it and get the ERDF GBI Fund back on track.”

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