BBP provides a support service to the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s on their Growing Places Fund. Our brief has been wide ranging, initially helping to make the case to DCLG for the south-east’s allocation of £40 million of Growing Places Funds; designing the structure of the revolving funds and the finance arrangements for individiual projects; inviting applications; and shortlisting and appraising detailed business cases. We have provided briefings to the legal team on the terms of the credit facilities and we have helped to build capacity with the LEP secreteriat on fund management and project appraisal.
The national Growing Places Fund (GPF), was launched at the end of 2011, aimed at providing capital finance to LEPs in order to unlock stalled sites which can deliver economic growth. The government wants GPF to support projects that are strategically important to the LEPs, can be delivered quickly and where the funds can be recycled into future rounds of investment.
The situations in Oxfordshire required different approach. The fund was smaller (£9 million) and there is a single County Council. Although the Council is the accontable body for GPF it was considered important to have an independent assessor to advise the LEP on how to structure the fund, seek projects to back and assess applications received. BBP was closely involved in advising the LEP and a special finance sub-group on all of these aspects and were retained to continue this role for a second round of applications. The first round involved support to projects including one for super-fast broadband in the Science Vale UK Enterprise Zone, a strategic priority for the Enterprise Partnership.
We have successfully supported the LEP through a first round of bidding. The LEP has been commended by DCLG on its decision to use GPF to back the growth of the Enterprise Zone. Round 2 is being targetted specifically at SMEs and the provision of business space and business incubators, seen as a real constraint on this area, which is an economic powerhouse in research and development and knowledge-based industries. Testament to the value added service provided by BBP has been the invitation to continue providing support following initial appointment.