The regional growth fund is a three-year fund and we expect all the £2.4 billion allocated to be fully spent in that time. In round 1, 44 of the 67 contracts awarded have been finalised, totalling some £340 million, of which £220 million has already been drawn down. Of the other 23, 11 have been withdrawn and the remaining 12 are being processed.
I welcome the Minister of State to his new role. Having formerly been the MP for Darlington, at least he knows where the north-east is.
The regional growth fund has been mired in delay, chaos and confusion and, for some companies, no little uncertainty. How can we be certain, despite yet more reassurances, that winning bidders will receive their long-awaited awards?
My predecessor, the hon. Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr Prisk), can be proud that rounds 1 and 2 of the fund now involve some 149 projects and programmes, delivering about 330,000 new jobs and drawing in nearly £5 billion of private investment. The bid for Gateshead college in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency was successful in round 2. A final offer letter was sent to the college at the end of July, and the money is there waiting for the college to take it up.
I welcome the Minister to his new role and look forward to having the opportunity to question him at some stage in the BIS Committee. May I draw his attention to the fact that in the black country some companies that were successful applicants in round 2 of the RGF have still not had contracts issued, with some waiting for as long as 10 months, and that business opportunities are being lost as a result? Will he undertake to look at this rigorously in order to speed things up?
I certainly look forward to appearing in front of the hon. Gentleman’s Select Committee.
I am happy to look at any specific examples of delay that the hon. Gentleman can produce. I want in round 3 to accelerate the process—in particular, to shorten the gap between announcement and conditional offer and between conditional offer and completion of due diligence. He will understand that it is necessary, when public money is involved, for those due diligence checks to be carried out. However, I will look at what he has said and we will do everything we can to accelerate the approval process.