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News Report Page 13 of 16
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Steve Rotheram Launches £2.24m High Growth Innovation Fund

THE Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, has announced a new £2.24m High Growth Innovation Fund to help dozens of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to grow and create good quality jobs. Funded by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and the European Regional Development Fund, grants of between £25,000 and £75,000 will be available to high growth businesses, and those with the potential to be high growth.  The £2.24m fund is intended to support existing Liverpool City Region businesses to get new products or services to market, or develop new processes to help them adapt and grow, contributing to the Region's Post Pandemiceconomic recovery. The High Growth Innovation Fund builds on 2 pilot rounds of the Future Innovation Fund which saw 35 local companies receive support worth £2.1m. It will contribute to Mayor Rotheram's ambition to invest 5% of Regional GVA on Research and Development (R&D) by 2030; nearly double the Government's UK target.

Speaking about the High Growth Innovation Fund, Mayor Steve Rotheram said:- "SMEs are the lifeblood of the Liverpool City Region's economy, accounting for 99% of all businesses in our Region. The role they have to play in helping drive our recovery from the Pandemiccannot be understated. We need smart, bold businesses in our Region with the potential, and ambition; to expand and innovate. I want to help even more businesses on their growth journeys. This fresh round of funding will encourage local business owners to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit. The return on this investment will be massive for our economy, helping to create thousands of new well paid, secure jobs, all while supporting our wider targets for innovation. This is just one of the many ways that our City Region is leading the way to help local businesses to succeed. I can't wait to see the impact of this latest funding and the opportunities it will unlock for SMEs across the Region."

Councillor Jan Williamson, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Portfolio Holder for Inclusive Economy and Third Sector, said:- "We know how important our small and medium sized businesses are to our economy; they provide the vast bulk of employment across our City Region and we need this sectors high growth businesses to perform to their full potential, creating good quality jobs and boosting our economy.  This investment will do exactly that, supporting our high performing SMEs to ensure that they can play a full role in our economic recovery as we look to rebuild after the Pandemic."

Asif Hamid, MBE, Chair of the Liverpool City Region LEP and portfolio lead for Business Support for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority said:-  "The launch of this fund is great news. Over the last 2 years we have seen stories across the City Region on how businesses have innovated and adapted in the face of the Pandemicand it is essential that we ensure those businesses are fully supported.  The High Growth Innovation Fund is one such way and has been designed to help innovative ambitious businesses sustain and grow, ultimately creating the opportunities that will help drive the economy of our Region. We know that these ambitious businesses are going to be the core driving force of our City Region over the coming months and years and I would encourage any business to get in touch with Growth Platform - Liverpool City Region Growth Company who are delivering this fund and who have developed a whole range of programmes and support services to help accelerate and support growth."

The High Growth Innovation Fund is part of a new £6.6m LCR High Growth Programme, that will provide a range of tailored business support to high growth SMEs, complementing the £75 million Business Support Package launched by Mayor Rotheram, in September 2019, the largest of its kind in decades when it was first announced.

The fund, which will be delivered by Growth Platform - the Liverpool City Region's Growth Company, is open to projects from any sector, speciality or technology (except those specifically excluded in the eligibility criteria). Applicants must have 50% match funding, must not use the funding to pay existing salaries and should aim to demonstrate impact within six months of receiving a grant.

Proposals must also align to at least one of the City Region's six strategic priority areas (as outlined in its draft Local Industrial Strategy), namely: Open Health Innovation; Sustainable Industrial Future; Global Cultural Capital; Zero Carbon Economy; Tech for Good; and Digitalisation.

Applications for the new High Growth Innovation Fund are now open and will close at 5pm, on Friday, 20 May 2022. For more detail on how to apply, including eligibility criteria, please visit:- GrowthPlatform.Org

Would a privatised Passport Office be a good idea?

PASSPORTS are one of the most important documents you can carry, and provide not only access to and from the different countries, but also help to provide proof of identity and even aged. The passport also helps with the security of nations, so why is Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatening to privatise the Passport Office? It is well known that a Passport is an official document issued by a government so what would be the consequences of putting such an important service in the hands of a firm that could be controlled by businesses that are owned by Foreign States? Also, given that the passport contains a given person's identity, giving it to a firm, that is profit driven, also opens up other risks when it comes to data security,

In the eyes of many, this is a very dangerous idea that has been pushed by the Prime Minister due to millions of people delayed renewing their passports during the Pandemic. Currently Her Majesty's Passport Office is the sole issuer of UK passports and responsible for civil registration services through the General Register Office. But, Mr Johnson’s idea is that a privatised Passport Office would sort out the delays and start delivering better value for money. Yet many are pointing out that selling the Passport Office off to the highest bidder could increase costs with no guarantee that current issues would be solved.

After talking to people within the Passport Office, the delays we are currently dealing with are as a result of many internal issues within the service, especially over staffing numbers and staff moral. So Mr Johnson's statements about his plans for the service will only increase tensions and doesn't resolve the key issues at the heart of the problem, the continued lack of staff, poor management and failures with private contractors.

Speaking to a member of the Passport Office who doesn’t want to be identified, we are told that:- "We are experiencing demand levels on an unprecedented level, thanks to Brexit and now the Pandemic, so even a privatised service would buckle under the weight of the amount of applications and renewals we are experiencing. Considering we have less staff than before the pandemic and spending huge amounts of time and effort chasing privet firms who have been contracted to deal with some of our many layers of responsibility, this is use smoke an mirrors by Mr Johnson. Over the last few years, the service has been cut to the bone and we are bing treated extremely badly. I loved working for the Civil Service, but I now want to leave it, as do so many other members of staff. We are paid very low for what we do and also management is overloading us contently, as well as increasingly ignoring our concerns. In some cases the management are even ignoring our employment rights. We feel completely undermined, and it is not just the passport office that is increasingly being destroyed like this and this is the consistence of several years of poor policy changes, neglect of workers and under investment. The idea of using privet firms looks good on paper, but in reality, we are already seeing the mess coursed by them, with our contractions messing up within our supply chains."

It is not just the Passport Office that is questioning this latest idea, as many people are now voicing their views online and offline on this issue. For example, Currently an online petition on 38Degrees.Org.UK has clocked up over 50,000 signatures signatures.

We have many options to fix this type of issue on the table, without privatising the service for a short term win. For example, currently many nations in including the UK are looking at or developing contactless travel model for UK citizens based on biometric e-passport technology. If this is introduced, it could mean this type of backlog could be quicker to resolve for future issues as well as issues like the ones face by the HM Passport Office faced today.

So what are your thoughts on this threat to the Passport Office? Please do let us know by emailing us to:- News24@SouthportReporter.Com.


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