Tharsus CEO, Brian Palmer took the opportunity this week to challenge the Right Honourable Michael Fallon MP on the need for a flexible approach to drawing down RGF monies.
The Business Minister, Fallon was in the North East for the official opening of Tharsus’ new facility in Blyth and also took time to address business leaders from the Entrepreneurs’ Forum and Institute of Directors.
Responsible for fostering enterprise, Fallon highlighted the importance of the North East’s strength in design and manufacturing with British expertise and products exported around the world.
Having been awarded £690,000 in Round 1 of RGF, Palmer was quick to praise the funding which is claimed to leverage six times worth of private investment, “We needed to be able to demonstrate our capability and capacity to major prospective customers and funding allowed us to buy our new site before we had sufficient work to occupy it.”
“Without this facility in place we certainly wouldn’t have succeeded in winning significant long-term contracts with customers such as Safetykleen and Rapiscan. Thanks to these contracts we’re creating jobs for the people of South Northumberland and that’s a a clear testament to the fact that funding really can have an impact.”
However, Palmer’s enthusiasm was tempered by the frustration that funding timescales don’t reflect the challenges that are created by the faltering economic recovery, “We’re ahead of target on job creation, which I believe was always a key priority for the Regional Growth Fund, but are behind on the capital spend that triggers the payment of our funding monies.”
“Like everyone, we need to remain prudent with our spending and it must be driven by the requirements of our customer base rather than the need to fit in with funding timetables. It makes far more sense that project extensions are considered for businesses like ours in order that we avoid the need to start the funding application process again.”
“I sincerely hope that Mr Fallon will act on our request, especially considering the stance he outlined on reducing red tape for business that he claims is making him particularly unpopular in Whitehall.”
As they attempt to rebalance the economy and reduce the budget deficit, Mr Fallon explained that the government’s role in business should be limited to helping ambitious companies to access the finance and develop the skills needed to drive continued growth.