New support programme launched as four councils go it alone

By Ged Henderson

19 Sep 2023

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The future shape of Lancashire’s business support landscape has become clearer – with four district councils opting not to fund Boost’s new programme.

Boost; Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub will deliver a new £2.9m programme that gets underway this month and will run until March 2025.

That new programme is being funded by Lancashire County Council, along with 10 of the county’s 14 local authority district councils, who have each committed a proportion of their UK Shared Prosperity Fund allocation.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is part of the government’s levelling up agenda and a successor to EU structural funds.

The four councils that have decided not to commit funds to Boost are Blackpool, Lancaster, Rossendale and Ribble Valley.

Nicola Hopkins, Ribble Valley’s director of economic development and planning, said: “As our UK Shared Prosperity Fund allocation is relatively small, our members decided that it was best used to support capital schemes directly benefitting our residents and businesses.

“Future business support will be outlined in our new economic plan, which is currently under consultation.”

In a statement Rossendale said: “As with all councils we are working under extreme budgetary restraints, and we have to make sure that we are allocating our spend as effectively as possible.

“Rossendale Borough Council felt that having a business advisor employed directly by the council gives Rossendale businesses direct support without any red tape or restraints on the amount of support they can receive.

“It allows us to tailor the advice, support, workshops, and events, based directly on the feedback we get from the businesses we work with ensuring they are targeted and effective. We felt that was a more efficient use of our budget in this instance."

Explaining Blackpool’s decision a council spokesperson said: “We will be running a new specific Blackpool business support service in the near future using our Shared Prosperity Fund allocation.

“The service will support all our local start-ups and growth companies to expand, take on new contracts, hire new staff and meet carbon reduction targets, from advanced manufacturing and aviation companies all the way through to leisure and hospitality.”

Lancaster City councillor Nick Wilkinson, cabinet member with responsibility for business support, said: “Lancaster City Council carried out an open competitive grant application process for UKSPF support for local business projects.

“Robust evaluation of all applications took place to ensure that business support projects aligned with the council’s key priority to develop an inclusive and prosperous local economy.

“To help deliver on this priority, the council’s UKSPF has so far contributed to the development of a fresh and collaborative approach to employment and skills in our area. 

“We will provide a one-stop-shop for businesses contributing to the development of an economic strategy for the district and lead on sector skills development and partnership working to promote economic growth and inward investment. 

“To achieve this, the team will also play an essential role in co-ordinating, signposting and developing long lasting partnerships.

"This support extends to nurturing sector growth, promoting sustainable practices to contribute to a greener economy, and fostering social economy initiatives that champion under-represented groups, such as women in business.

“So far we have committed £733,558 of our UKSPF to business support including local provision via Electech Innovation Cluster, Lancaster and Morecambe College, The Growing Club, Tech Lancaster and East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce – new low carbon technology and business support for net zero.  Further allocations are planned in year three of the fund. 

“Our UKSPF programme is not just investing in businesses; it’s investing in the future prosperity and inclusivity of our district.”

Boost has been seeking private sector delivery partners to deliver its new support programme. Organisations were invited to tender for county council contracts at the start of June in a month-long exercise.

Andrew Leeming, programme manager of Boost, Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub, said: “Public sector funding models will continue to evolve but the important point to stress is that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will enable all businesses in Lancashire to access business support.

“Businesses can access a range of funded services through Boost; Lancashire’s Business Growth Hub, and in some local areas business support will be delivered directly through specific district councils.

“We look forward to collaborating with all local authorities, public and private sector partners to ensure Lancashire business owners and directors get the right business support to help them solve problems, improve their business and achieve their goals, collectively unlocking the economic potential of our brilliant county.”

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