Projects in race to find alternative ERDF match

A newly published report to the board of the North West Development Agency shows there are 27 projects that have ERDF grant aid in place alongside NWDA funding but will have to find replacement cash after the agency had its own budget cut by government.

The report, presented to the September board of the NWDA, said the projects had three months to raise alternative match funding or face losing the ERDF cash. To keep pace with annual spend targets set by Brussels the NWDA is keen to make sure the ERDF cash is committed and will look for alternative projects to spend it on if those in the 27 cannot secure new sources of finance. So far the 2010 decommitment target – the annual amount that must be allocated or else money returned to the EU – has been met, the report said.

ERDF is worth £520m over six years from 2007 to 2013 to the North West, however ERDF can only be used as match funding, covering a maximum of 50% of the cost and cannot fund whole projects. Typically, NWDA grants previously filled this gap but its budget was cut by £52m this year and it will be dissolved altogether in April 2012.

The question remains of what will replace NWDA match funding for the remainder of the ERDF programme until the end of 2013. The government's new Regional Growth Fund is worth £1.4bn over three years to all of England; the NWDA budget for three years was roughly the same amount.

The identity of the 27 projects and the amount of grant aid tied up were not available at the time of writing.

ERDF allocation is ahead of any other region of England and any previous North West programme, the board report also said.

A spokesman for the NWDA said this week the talks with managers of vulnerable projects were ongoing and there was no further update on the board report.

Meanwhile, Altrincham-based consultant Regeneris has been commissioned to carry out an evaluation of the North West ERDF programme and will report to the December board.

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