THE new deputy chair of the Regional Growth Fund has said he would like to see the £2.4bn project expand into a fourth round.
Lord Shipley, the former leader of Newcastle Council, has been named deputy to Lord Heseltine on the flagship scheme.
The Liberal Democrat peer takes over from former Port of Tyne chairman Sir Ian Wrigglesworth, who stepped down from the post to become the Lib Dem treasurer.
Speaking to The Journal, Lord Shipley said he was keen to see the fund progress past its current third round.
He said: “It is a matter of regret that there were far too many applications for the money available and I am now hoping that ministers may fund a way to ensure a fourth round, but it is still too early to say if this could be done.” Lord Shipley was a member of the fund’s decision-making committee in round one. He stepped down in the second round to concentrate on his role advising the Government on its first tranche of city deals, offering millions in investment to the likes of Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester.
The scheme was extended last year with an extra £1bn added as George Osborne sought to renew the Government‘s commitment to manufacturing in particular.
If the Chancellor is to repeat that effort, he would do so in the upcoming Autumn Statement, an event set to see the Government announce various job creation measures. Lord Shipley added: “There has been some criticism of the fund, but we will only ever know what the success was of the fund in several years time.
“Yes, there is some concern over the length of time it has taken for applications to be processed, for money to be paid out, but this due diligence process simply has to be done properly. The taxpayers’ interests must be protected.
“But overall I’m happy with the way the fund is going. It is all about generating jobs in the North and the Midlands and it remains on track to do so.
“There are pockets across England that meet the criteria and they deserve consideration. Every bid is rigorously assessed to make sure the taxpayer interest is protected, that is the biggest concern throughout.”