LEP chairman Mark Reeve hits back at claims Fenland isn’t receiving enough support - and encourages businesses to make bids
- Credit: Archant
Businesses across Fenland have only themselves to blame for not finding projects big enough and suitable enough to get financial backing, enterprise agency boss Mark Reeve told councillors.
Mr Reeve, chairman of the Greater Cambridge Great Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), told Fenland Council overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday: “We will consider all bids but for whatever reason, applications have not come forward.”
He has now offered his hand in helping Fenland District Council benefit from government funding.
Mr Reeve was challenged by councillors who suggested Fenland has been shunned in terms of how much money it had received from the group set up to boost economic growth.
Mr Reeve, who has headed the LEP since 2013, denied this, insisting that £20 million has been injected into the district and that there has been a lack of bids for more funding.
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He said: “18 per cent of our funding has gone into Fenland on projects like the King’s Dyke crossing and the Wisbech Access Study.
“There are no differentiating levels of support in Cambridgeshire.
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“What we are about is sign-posting businesses to the right place and connecting businesses to our program.
The LEP has awarded £5.5m via the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative, of which £46,500 has been awarded to a Fenland-based business – Law Fertilisers in March.
Committee chairman Councillor Fred Yeulett suggested that looking at examples of successful bids may be useful in helping to put together future bids for cash.
He said: “I think we would certainly benefit from seeing examples of successful applications and to have feedback moving forward.”
Mr Reeve admitted, however, that a lack of Fenland-based bids may be because businesses are unaware of the support they can provide.
“If I walked down the street and asked someone ‘have you heard of the LEP?’ they would say ‘what’s that?’” he said.
Mr Reeve also admitted he is frustrated that the Kings Dyke crossing, which has received £8 million from the enterprise partnership, is being held back.
“We are not a delivery agency,” he said.
“The money has been sat there for two years now but delivery has been held back by county council problems.”
The LEP has come under criticism in recent months from Conservative NE Cambs MP candidate Steve Barclay, who accused it of pumping money into businesses outside of its geographical area.
He said new figures suggested King’s Lynn and West Norfolk “received 16 times more than Fenland businesses and East Cambridgeshire 24 times more”.