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County 'missing out' on jobs scheme cash
HAMPSHIRE is being frozen out by the Government’s flagship jobs scheme, a business chief has said.
Jimmy Chestnutt said the Regional Growth Fund was focused on the north of England, meaning vital projects in the south were missing out on cash.
He was speaking as a committee of MPs said it was “scandalous” that the cash was taking so long to reach the front line, and questioned whether it represented value for money for taxpayers.
Mr Chestnutt, pictured , the executive director of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce , said the £1.4 billion fund was “undoubtedly” aimed at removing the supposed North/South divide.
He said: “If that was a political objective, then fine – but in terms of business sense, the place to invest is the place where you get the best bang for your buck, and the south has been under-resourced in that regard.”
While there have been successful bids, like a multimillion pound revamp of Platform Road in Southampton , there are many examples of under-funding, Mr Chestnutt said. He cited the example of junction five of the M27 at Southampton Airport as needing investment that could boost economic growth.
Today, the Public Accounts Committee slams the scheme, saying that of the £1.4 billion that has been 'allocated' to date, just £60m has been used on projects so far.
Just 2,442 new jobs have been created compared to an eventual target of 36,800, the MPs say, with too much cash being swallowed up by admin fees and third parties.
The Regional Growth Fund is the government's flagship scheme to replace the much-criticised South East Regional Development Agency, set up by the previous government, as the main way to make local investment to boost jobs.
Last year the Daily Echo revealed that £5.5m had been secured from the RGF to pay for a revamp of Platform Road in Southampton that bosses say will ease traffic and pave the way for the expansion of the port.
Other bids have been made by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, although they have not yet been processed.