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House of Commons Hansard
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Small Businesses: Sussex
11 November 2009
Volume 499
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To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills what support his Department is providing to small and medium-sized businesses in (a) Mid Sussex constituency and (b) West Sussex. [295691]

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The South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) provides a full range of business support services to small and medium sized businesses across West Sussex. The support falls into two broad categories:

1. Business support—primarily through Business Link, Manufacturing Advisory Service, Continuous Employment Support Service, and financial assistance delivered through Finance South East.

2. Strategic Business Development and Engagement—comprising of the West Sussex Sub Regional Partnership and the Gatwick Diamond Initiative.

SEEDA recognise East and West Sussex as individual counties. Mid Sussex is one of seven local district authorities which comprise West Sussex. SEEDA do not break down their data into districts and would only be able to separate information on Mid Sussex by carrying out a manual trawl of all the data provided.

Mid Sussex is one of the six district and borough authorities which makes up the Gatwick Diamond for Investment and Growth.

1. Direct support to businesses in West Sussex most of which is available to all businesses across the South East

Business Link

Business Link provides business support and advice for all individuals and businesses already trading or thinking of starting. Benefits include:

Free business health checks, including maximising cash flow, marketing and business planning, debt management, new market and product development.

Access to finance advice, credit crunch presentations and finance clinics.

Guidance and events on how to survive and thrive in difficult times, including advice on reducing energy consumption and costs.

Access to the SEEDA funded resource efficiency programme.

Access to advice and signposting to skills and training opportunities through the ‘Train to Gain’ service.

Analysis and information on new business opportunities and markets.

Business Link Sussex

SEEDA has invested circa £4,490,000 annually to Business Link Sussex.

Health checks were introduced on 23 October 2008 and are reported on a monthly, cumulative basis. Since that date Business Link Sussex has completed 2,713 health checks across Sussex.

Further figures provided by Business Link Sussex (measured by key performance indicators) show that the number of customers assisted has increased as have the number of intensively assisted customers.

Satisfaction in the service provided by Business Link Sussex has risen by nearly 5 per cent. over a three-year period

Key performance indicator

2006-07

2007-08

2008-09

Total number of customers assisted

25,315

24,661

27,157

Number of intensively assisted customers

3,145

3,068

3,814

Customer satisfaction (percentage total satisfied)

86

84

90.92

Innovation and growth team—Gatwick Diamond/West Sussex

SEEDA will be investing £2.6 million over three years to the innovation and growth team who will be responsible for creating communities of innovation and growth and delivering specialist services to businesses that have potential for significant growth. Strong partnerships, including the universities of Chichester, Brighton and Surrey, have developed across West Sussex and the Gatwick Diamond. A business plan is being finalised and the innovation and growth team will be operational from 1 January 2010.

Investor development manager (IDM)

SEEDA funds an investor development manager (IDM), Chris Chapman, who works with strategically important companies across all of West Sussex. The investor development manager’s objective is to retain and develop these companies, identifying and helping to resolve any barriers to growth. In the last six years, the investor development manager has made nearly 800 company visits to West Sussex businesses. It is estimated that over 2,500 jobs have been gained or saved as a result of this intervention. Referrals have covered a range of topics including:

Planning/premises.

Training and work force development.

Access to a range of Government Departments.

Innovation and sustainability programmes.

Continuous Employment Support Service (CESS)

Between April and June 2009 CESS has helped 10 companies and 664 staff across the whole of Sussex Between July 2009 and September 2009 CESS helped seven companies and 405 staff in West Sussex

Companies thinking about making staff redundant or undertaking a redundancy programme can access the free ‘Continuing Employment Support Service’ run by Jobcentre Plus in partnership with SEEDA. CESS offers a free in-house package of support to all affected workers before they leave their employment, offering tailored advice on future options.

Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS)

Since January 2009, 70 companies have been assisted through the Manufacturing Advisory Service

MAS South East aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of manufacturers in the region to create sustainable improvements. Businesses can access hands-on advice and tailored support from experts to suit the individual requirements of their business to produce real results.

Inward investment

From April 2007 to April 2009, SEEDA has successfully located six companies into West Sussex

SEEDA has an inward investment team who aim to attract business from other countries to locate in the South East.

Rural

SEEDA manages a £60 million Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) EU Programme (previously termed ERDP). Of this budget, £1,952,647 has been invested into businesses in West Sussex since 18 January 2008.

In addition, the rural leader programme for West Sussex (Sussex and Low Weald) has provided £2.5 million. This wholly EU funded programme is aimed at farmers and forestry diversification with a strong element of community projects.

Grants for research and development

There have been four grants for research and development in West Sussex between 2007-09 totalling £1,126,419

The grants for research and development, now managed by Finance South East are focused on encouraging businesses to carry out projects that they would not necessarily undertake without the grant and lever in to these projects finance from reluctant private investment sources

Finance South East (FSE) accelerator fund

One company in West Sussex has been offered the accelerator fund totalling £100,000

The accelerator fund is a loan fund which supports small and medium sized companies in the South East with the potential for significant growth (early stage or established companies). It is a response to the needs of entrepreneurial businesses who require the level of growth investment provided by risk capital, but which are reluctant to relinquish an equity stake in the company at an early stage.

Transition Loan Fund

One company has been offered the Transition Loan Fund totalling £150,000

SEEDA is providing up to £3 million in a new regional transition fund known as the Bridging Mezzanine Debt Fund to be directed at fully established, viable and growing businesses that are currently facing difficulties in obtaining credit through banks and other traditional routes.

Funding is provided at commercial rates for these unsecured loans, and interest is rolled up and paid at maturity, thereby making the fund attractive to some businesses urgently needing to address liquidity problems.

2. Strategic business development and engagement

West Sussex Sub Regional Partnership

SEEDA provides funding to West Sussex county council which as the accountable body for the West Sussex Economic Skills and Enterprise Board (ESEB). The aim of the ESEB is to bring together key organisations and business representatives to establish shared objectives and priorities to improve the economic well being of West Sussex. The ESEB was set in the context of the developing sub regional partnerships covering Gatwick Diamond, Rural West Sussex and Coastal West Sussex.

Each of these sub regional partnerships is different reflecting the local issues and key stakeholder perspectives. Each has its own governance structure, strategies and action plans. SEEDA is a key partner in all of these partnerships.

West Sussex Sub Regional Partnership specifically:

Works to align regional and local economic strategy to benefit businesses and local stakeholders across West Sussex.

Understands employer issues across West Sussex and makes regional partners aware of these issues and challenges.

Engages with businesses across West Sussex and ensure business needs are reflected in sub regional strategies and emerging actions.

Gatwick Diamond

The Gatwick Diamond Initiative (GDI) is a business led private/public sector joint venture managed by Surrey Economic Partnership and West Sussex Economic Partnership, supported by businesses, SEEDA, local authorities, LSC, Business Link and higher and further education providers to facilitate and co-ordinate actions that will improve the economic performance of the area.

Through the West Sussex Economic Skills and Enterprise Board, SEEDA is providing capacity and operational funding of £100,000 to the Gatwick Diamond Initiative which is matched by local authorities. SEEDA has also funded key studies to benchmark the sub region internationally and a demand study to support proposals for the university centre in Crawley.

The new governance arrangements have been agreed by both the public and private sector. The main board is business-led and SEEDA are well represented across all levels of the new structure.

A strong working relationship continues to develop between Gatwick airport and SEEDA as the airport moves to divest itself from BAA and progresses the sale of the airport. SEEDA is working closely with the airport management team to ensure that the airport continues to play a full role in the economic development opportunities of the Gatwick Diamond.

The university of Brighton, in partnership with SEEDA, Crawley borough council and Central Sussex college are taking a lead role in the creation of a university centre in Crawley that will support educational attainment and progression across the Gatwick Diamond.

SEEDA recognise East and West Sussex as individual counties. Mid Sussex is one of seven local district authorities which comprise West Sussex. SEEDA do not break down their data into districts and would only be able to separate information on Mid Sussex by carrying out a manual trawl of all the data provided.

Mid Sussex is one of the six district and borough authorities which makes up the Gatwick Diamond for Investment and Growth.