Government minister told ‘disadvantaged’ North Devon needs funding for business growth
- Credit: Archant
Business Secretary Vince Cable briefed by local business leaders.
MEMBERS of the North Devon Manufacturer’s Association (NDFA) have been quizzing Government minister Vince Cable about key issues facing businesses in North Devon.
The Business Secretary fielded a number of questions at a special breakfast briefing at Petroc earlier today (Thursday).
Andy Lobato, managing director of Beran Instruments, said North Devon was ‘disadvantaged’ and asked Dr Cable if the region could be re-designated with Assisted Area Status.
“A number of us have weathered the storm but in terms of improving our own facilities and capabilities we need to expand,” said Mr Lobato.
“There is a funding gap for small to medium businesses that find it difficult to access RGF (Regional Growth Fund) funding.”
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In response, Dr Cable said he would speak to North Devon MP Nick Harvey about the ‘mechanics’ of changing Assisted Area Status and advised the NDMF to pursue funding opportunities with the Local Enterprise Partnership.
David Avery, managing director of Appledore-based Navtech Radar, asked what the Government was doing to cut through red tape, much of which he said hampered business.
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Dr Cable said: “It’s a constant process of attrition. There are 22,000 Government regulations affecting business and we are trying to strip out as much nonsense as we can.
“That said, there are some socially desirable regulations such as auto-enrolment of pensions. We need British people to save, especially low-earners.”
Anne Bater of Braunton-based Dalu Solutions spoke about the difficulty of finding UK manufacturers to commit to producing new products her firm had invented.
Bill Burden, managing director of Barnstaple-based Ocean Stone Advertising and Design, asked Dr Cable about the rising energy costs.
Dr Cable said: “Energy prices will very likely continue to go up, simply to cover much-needed large-scale investment in gas and nuclear.
“Someone has to finance that investment and it is inevitable that this is going to put pressure on prices.
“There is no easy solution but energy supplies have to be paid for.”
Alan Dykes, European finance director of TDK Lambda in Ilfracombe asked why there had been no real visible improvement in manufacturing exports despite a 20 per cent devaluation of the pound.
Dr Cable admitted the problem went against most standard economic models and was ‘a little difficult to track down’.
He said: “This is the mystery of the present time. There are mixed explanations as to why we haven’t had an export response.
“It could be down to a lack of supply, lack of skills or lack of credit.
“Half our exports go to the EU which has been hit by the Eurozone crisis.
“And it can take a long time to work up a market presence. Wherever I go the Germans have got there first – it’s the deckchair problem,” he added.
“Following the ‘heart attack’, we’re still connected to the life support system of cheap money.
“But low interest rates have a negative side effect and could inflate house prices. I’m told that in North Devon the average house price is nine times the average income, which is insane, although it’s much worse in London.
“We’re in an artificial world and it’s dangerous. If we’re going to get a properly balanced economy, it needs to come through manufacturing and exports – not another housing bubble.”
Later today, Dr Cable, accompanied by North Devon MP Nick Harvey, will visit electronics manufacturer TDK Lambda in Ilfracombe before returning to Barnstaple for a tour of pharmaceutical manufacturer Actavis.
Check back for more reaction to today’s visit as we have it.