Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion has welcomed news that Shropshire Council has won the green light to run an EU-funded grants scheme to help small and medium-sized businesses in West Mercia and Staffordshire.

PB RS EU funded print equipment IMG 7874Shropshire Council has won funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to run a carefully targeted scheme to ‘plug the gap’ in specialist advice and help for small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire.
The funding will provide support up to 100 businesses to develop and expand with a three-tiered programme of expert assistance, with free business briefings and consultancy tailored to meet their needs. Small grants of between £2,000 and £10,000 will also be available to help firms take the first steps to put the consultants’ advice into action.
The support makes use of £361,215 funding from the European Regional Development Fund, managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government and match funded by a range of partners.
Shropshire Council will manage the project in partnership with Herefordshire Council, Worcestershire County Council, Staffordshire County Council, the University of Wolverhampton, Staffordshire University, University of Worcester, Central Technology Belt and Stafford Business & Environment Network.
Shropshire and Marches MEP Phil Bennion is Lib Dem Employment Spokesman in the European Parliament. He said:
“This is great news for small businesses in Shropshire and the other three counties covered by the scheme. It shows how the EU can make a difference helping small businesses to expand and create jobs by working flexibly with local government and other partners.
“These small grants will enable eligible small businesses to get the right advice before expanding, and practical help to implement that expert input.
“I know from my work with the FSB and chambers of trade across the region that the expense of hiring consultants can put off small businesses considering how best to expand. I am sure the grant help will be useful when banks are still so reluctant to lend. 
"Offering practical help to 100 businesses means this EU funding has tremendous bang for buck.”
Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for business growth, said:
“There are various schemes around to support businesses, but this aims to plug a gap by providing assistance to businesses whose access to other initiatives is limited, and help them grow.”
Norman Price, Deputy Chair of the West Midlands ERDF Local Management Committee, said:
“Through the ERDF programme we are always looking for ways to support activity that will ultimately help local businesses to grow, perform well and become more competitive and satisfy changing customer needs. This project does just that. The rural communities in particular have a strong record of flexibility and enterprise, which this project emphasises.
“Through a variety of workshops, briefings and grants, around 100 local businesses will be encouraged to innovate, find new markets and explore new techniques, technologies and products to take their businesses forward.”
Caption: Photo shows Phil Bennion MEP with Bridgnorth printer Richard Stilwell, with his new printing machine funded by a previous ERDF scheme targeted at Shropshire small business.