AS 2016: EU funding deadline lifted

The government appears to have offered a lifeline to bidders for EU funding by relenting on a deadline of today’s Autumn Statement for applications to be approved in order to secure guarantees from the UK in the wake of the referendum result.

In August, the Chancellor said projects seeking European Union structural investment funding, or ESIF, would have to be approved before today’s statement to the Commons if they were to be guaranteed by the UK. ESIF includes the European Regional Development Fund, accessed for property developments, and European Social Fund, for training and enterprise support. The UK’s ERDF allocation for the 2014-2020 programme is €3.6bn – approximately £3.1bn based on today’s exchange rate.

According to funding experts familiar with the ESIF bidding process, applicants have been given longer to resolve issues and talks will continue with Department for Communities & Local Government, safe in the knowledge projects can still be guaranteed if approved after the Autumn Statement.

Among the pending approvals, Greater Manchester Combined Authority remains in talks over the £50m Evergreen 2 fund and a new £15m dedicated low carbon building pot. Further, GM is planning to invest £32m of EU cash in the new £400m Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund for enterprise growth capital, overseen by the government-owned British Business Bank. An application for a £200m loan from the European Investment Bank, an EU entity, is also understood to be awaiting final approval.

Bids for money to pay for installation of ultrafast broadband into Cheshire and Warrington science parks is close to agreement but not yet signed.

Simon Hooton, director of economic analysis consultancy Regeneris, advises councils and LEPs on their bids. He said: “Everyone’s breathing a sigh of relief in the short term but there is still a lot of work to do to ensure everyone gets the potential from the ERDF programme in the UK.”

Following the Brexit vote, ESIF activity at DCLG froze and new calls for funding applications paused. Calls resumed in recent weeks and advisory notices have resumed on the DCLG website after a period of quiet.

There has been no response to a request for comment from DCLG.

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