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Social Enterprise North West

Volume 589: debated on Monday 15 December 2014

6. What assessment he has made of the effect of his Department’s demand for a repayment from Social Enterprise North West on local businesses and services in the North West of England. (906613)

My Department has worked with Merseyside partners to ensure that individuals and businesses are signposted to business support. My Department’s demand notice will not seek to reclaim any of the money from the 17 supporting organisations which operated in good faith throughout the process.

I am sure that the Minister believes what she has said, but it is not entirely accurate, and it does not entirely answer the question. Social Enterprise North West has been ordered to pay back nearly £1.5 million, although it observed the funding requirements that were laid down by her own Department, and hundreds of jobs and businesses are endangered as a result. Has she received representations from councillors, Members of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament and local businesses—I have been told that she has—and what will she do to right her Department’s wrong?

It is not just a question of our accounting requirements; it is a question of the European Commission’s rules, and they are perfectly clear. Failing to provide evidence of the way in which money is spent puts funding at risk, and it is totally unacceptable that Social Enterprise North West cannot provide proper accounts for that public money. However, I can give the hon. Gentleman some reassurance. We will not be recouping money from the 17 supporting contractors which operated in good faith, no match funding has been lost, and the money from the European regional development fund that is being returned from the project will be reinvested in other existing business support services in the Liverpool city region.