Monday, 1 March 2010

A Spanner In The Works

I own certain tools that are always handy, useful, comfortable and my favourites to call upon. I would be sorry to lose them. That ratchet screwdriver I have had for 25 years, the swiss army knife I carry that gets used everyday for something or other.
The Welsh Assembly government have announced a new Fund for South Wales Valleys and other needy areas of £6m. It is a supplementary fund to the existing SIF  (Single Investment Fund)  providing grant aid from European money. The main objective of the new Enhancement Area Fund is to generate employment for Disadvantaged and Disabled workers by encouraging businesses, located within the Strategic Regeneration Areas of Wales, to undertake capital investment projects. Financial support ranging from £10,000 to £90,000 is available.
Fantastic! So far so good, but I am sorry – is it me? Here’s a fund that has fished out £6m from the pond and has had to play a ‘disabled’ and a ‘disadvantaged’ card to do it. That and the other usual restrictions are enough to push aside most projects. That means the fund will sit there until someone notices it is greatly under subscribed and they will have to apply for some variation, or give it back.
So now we have great looking WAG publicity material and the Assembly look business like and trendy up front, and once again can’t deliver. At the minimum £10k grant for eligible projects they would need 600 projects. At £90k each they would need 67 projects. Suppose it is somewhere in between. Say, 300 projects at about £20000 costing double that although the percentages for various eligible aspects are not all the same.
Let us be clear. That would mean finding 300 projects that can show a need for grant investment, that do not have a local focus only, that are not in the retail sector or are for portable equipment, and do not displace any other work locally. Other restrictions apply and of course they must be employing disadvantaged or disabled folk to some significant degree and purpose.  
Then there are the unspoken restrictions centring around the recruitment systems for suitable grant projects which involve the Relationship Managers and the application process which takes a good while and has a few hoops to jump through.
I might be quite wrong but I think they are going to have difficulty fulfilling their purpose. Am I missing something here? That money would be better used in some of the support that is actually successful such as the HoVIP (Heads of the Valleys Innovation Programme) scheme.
One could argue the money is only available because the disabled and disadvantaged button has been pushed and any money is better than none.  If that is the case, fine, but let’s not pretend it is a wonderful tool. I think it will stay at the back of the toolbox.  
If your business needs better business tools contact Bob Shepherd –

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