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This year’s Budget statement brought tremendous news for Cumbria’s rural businesses with the announcement that Cumbria LEP has been successful in its bid to become one of DEFRA’s pilot Rural Growth Networks.
The precise level of funding is yet to be confirmed but the DEFRA funding, together with the match funding it will attract, is expected to bring several millions of pounds into the county.
The pilot plans to establish eleven rural growth hubs around the county, supporting their local business communities through services such as networking, training, business support and business facilities, with outreach activities in their surrounding areas. Six of these will also be key employment sites, providing business units to meet local needs.
There will be a web portal and associated services supporting rural businesses, and networks supporting business sectors such as food & drink, digital & creative, adventure/country sports and agribusiness/forestry, as well as women-led businesses and social enterprise. Added to this will be a range of other business support for rural businesses.
The Rural Growth Network will link with the Connecting Cumbria broadband project, prioritising hubs for Superfast Broadband.
Announcement of pilot status also means that rural micro-businesses in any sector in Cumbria will be eligible to apply for Rural Economy grant funding.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Michael Cowen, LEP Board member responsible for rural issues, says
“We’re absolutely delighted with this announcement which is great news for Cumbria’s rural businesses. It will make a real difference to our local economy, helping existing businesses to grow and new businesses to start.
"We expect to create at least 480 new businesses and 900 new jobs, with 7,000 business people engaged in networking, helping them to grow their businesses and enhance sustainability.
"Many thanks to the many businesses and other organisations we spoke with in putting together this bid.
"We now face the exciting task of making the vision a reality.”
Made in Cumbria, which supports food & craft businesses across the county, is a partner in the bid, and Chief Executive Rob Johnston comments
“This is fabulous news for our rural businesses and will deliver the kind of support they need to help overcome some of the barriers they face – and to take advantage of opportunities. Yet again it shows what can be achieved when Cumbrians pull together.”
Rob Johnston, Chief Executive, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce says “There are some very positive moves in here for business which should make a real difference. That said we are disappointed that the Chancellor did not go further – particularly around support to help young people into employment and support for skills. That said there may be more which emerges in the detail as it’s published.
"One of the measures not included in the speech, which is fabulous news for Cumbria, is the announcement of Cumbria of one of DEFRA’s Rural Growth Hub pilots. This will bring millions of pounds of funding into the county and provide a real boost to rural businesses and to our economy.
"As with last year a number of the moves are still subject to consultation or involve review, such as Heseltine’s review of how Government departments can encourage private sector growth. This gives us a concern as to what the final measures will be.”
Commenting on other specific measures he adds:
“The reduction in the headline rate of corporation tax is tremendous news for business. With this additional cut we’ll have a rate of 24% from this April, with further reductions giving us a rate of 22% by 2014.
Reducing the main rate of corporation tax again gives a clear signal that the UK is open for business and shows Ministers are listening to business.
We await with interest the consultation on changing the taxation system for small businesses to a cash system.”
“We look forward to the publication of the consultation on plans to merge national insurance and income tax. The consultation was announced in last year’s budget.”
Fuel duty & vehicle excise duty
“We’re disappointed not to see a reduction in fuel duty, which is especially relevant in a rural county like Cumbria. We do still face extremely high fuel prices.
Freezing of vehicle excise duty for road hauliers is great news for the county’s hauliers.”
“As ever we welcome moves to support export activity. This can make a real difference to the county’s businesses in growing their sales. We look forward to seeing the detail of this.”
“We look forward to seeing the detail of the planning report to be published imminently. This should make a real difference to business.”