Tuesday, June 21

The Empty Pot in the North East

''Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to get her poor doggie a bone, but when she got there the cupboard was bare, so the poor little doggie had none.''
Many North East rural businesses will find that applying for grants and loans from funds administered from OneNorthEast (ONE), the Regional Development Agency (RDA), will be impossible to obtain, despite encouragement by business agencies to apply.

The source of the funding obtained by ONE, which is distributed to projects and businesses, takes some understanding. In general terms funds are obtained from the European Regional Structural Fund (ERSF) at the EU Commission in Brussels via the Government Office for the North East (GONE) which was set up primarily for that purpose in the early 1990's. The Structural Fund is in turn funded from the gross contributions from the EU member states.

The funds, once successfully bidden for on behalf of ONE are blended with an other fund that is supplied direct from HM Treasury, known to those it the business support 'trade' as 'Single Pot Money'. These 'blended' funds, often referred to incorrectly as European Money, are in turn distributed to a variety of development and business needs, in part, via the Regions Business Links under the control of ONE.

The Single Pot money in the North East is currently exhausted leaving only the ERSF as the lifeline. Since ERSF funds can only be used in areas that are defined by the EU Commission as ''socially deprived '' much of the rural locations in the NE will be excluded, since they are not officially designated as deprived areas.

Since the single pot allocation is not regularly allocated, the last tranche, being a little over £ 100 million, there is apparently little hope of a further allocation in the short term.

In the meantime Business Links covering rural Northumberland and Teesdale continue to process applications for hopeful business people despite there being absolutely no prospect of success. ONE have apparently not been very forthcoming with the detail about the empty 'single pot ' fund in the region.

Perhaps the representatives of businesses in the North East (particularly the Federation of Small Businesses) will, once they are aware of the problem, address the issue at one of their many meetings with the Regional Development Agency.

Until the 'Single Pot' is refilled, the cupboard will remain bare for most rural projects in the North East. Thus there will indeed be a lot of disappointed 'little doggies'.

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