£2m for firms as News-backed bid gets the go-ahead

GO-AHEAD 'The view from the top of Admiralty Quarter, Portsmouth
GO-AHEAD 'The view from the top of Admiralty Quarter, Portsmouth
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THE News has teamed up with business leaders and won a £2.1m grant to help create jobs and boost the south Hampshire economy.

The government’s Regional Growth Fund awarded the money following a successful News-backed bid by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

It is hoped that 200 jobs will be created by the funding, which will mostly go towards supporting small and medium-sized firms and brand new businesses across the Solent region.

Companies are being encouraged to apply for a share of the money when the bidding process opens early next year.

Founder of the Solent LEP and leader of Fareham Borough Council, Sean Woodward, said it is important that firms show their interest in bidding for a share of the funding.

He said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted. We were very hopeful about a number of bids but this one in particular. It is the best possible news for our region. Now we need to target areas, such as Gosport, which have the most problems.

‘For a long time Hampshire has been regarded as prosperous and so has missed out on funding, when some of our most deprived areas would not be out of place in the north of England.’

The chief executive of the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, Jimmy Chestnutt, welcomed the announcement but said more money would need to follow to have a real impact.

‘We think it is great news,’ he said. ‘We have to congratulate the Solent LEP for winning this money in what is a very difficult climate.

‘But this is a relatively small sum of money and the challenges that we face are very substantial. We are going to have to work that money hard and the LEP will have to work with partners to make sure it makes a real difference.’

The bid was submitted on July 1 and was one of 492 bids received by the government to their heavily oversubscribed fund.

Of the £2.1m awarded, £1m will go towards new start-up businesses, £1m will be open to small and medium-sized firms looking to grow, and the remaining £100,000 will fund business support.

Details on how to apply for the cash are yet to be finalised.

Mark Waldron, editor of The News, said: ‘I am delighted to have been involved in the bid with the Solent LEP.

The News has a strong track record championing local business and is perfectly positioned to help promote and administer regional growth funding to the small and medium-sized businesses where it can have the biggest impact.’