Lancashire could land EU cash weeks before Brexit

The proposed fund for urban areas would need to be agreed before Brexit
The proposed fund for urban areas would need to be agreed before Brexit
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Lancashire could receive European Union cash to create a special investment fund less than a month before Brexit.

Lancashire County Council cabinet members will be asked whether they want to approve the arrangements for establishing an Urban Development Fund (UDF) on 7th March.

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The board of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) heard at a recent meeting that the process was “time critical” and had to be completed before the UK is due to leave the EU on 29th March.

UDFs involve using European money to generate public or private sector investment in projects focused on urban locations. Lancashire is expected to bid for £15m of investment, with the aim of attracting a further £10m.

The funding can be used for schemes which promote job creation, social cohesion and green technologies, or other sustainable transformation programmes.

Lancashire County Council’s chief executive, Angie Ridgwell, told the LEP board that the authority believed the UDF would be “beneficial” to the county.

But the meeting heard that the process had been complicated by a government insistence that £750,000 needed to support the development of the UDF could not be provided in the form of loan directly from the LEP.

Instead, legal advice suggested that the county council and LEP could form a limited partnership, with County Hall holding a 51 percent share.

Board members were told that the county council would bear the majority of risk as the “entrusted entity”. Sue Roberts, the LEP’s commercial and business support manager, said that the growth body was covering the cost of further legal advice for County Hall “to give some comfort to [the authority] about how this structure will work”.

The board approved a suggestion by Angie Ridgwell that officers carry out further due diligence on the arrangement to ensure “an acceptable level of risk”.

Members approved the LEP’s involvement in the plan and a final decision will be made by Lancashire County Council’s cabinet early next month, with 22 days until Brexit.

The LEP's interim chair, David Taylor, said it would be "a terrible pity" if Lancashire lost out on the funding.

"My thoughts are that, subject to the appropriate legal advice, we proceed as quickly as we possibly can," he added.