LEEDS: £8.4m offered to mystery companies to come to West Yorkshire over four years
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More than £8m of public money was offered to entice mystery companies to bring jobs to West Yorkshire, it has been revealed.
Data obtained via a freedom of information request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service shows seven separate companies were offered grants of between £168,350 and £3m by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) between December 2017 and January 2021.
Due to commercial confidentiality, WYCA would not reveal the names of the companies, but added that the schemes covered sectors including manufacturing, healthcare, finance, retail and professional services.
According to the figures, six of the seven projects were successful – listed as either “monitored” or “live”.
However, the scheme with the largest proposed grant – “Project Beta” at £3m – did not go ahead. This would, the authority claimed, have seen 243 jobs created or safeguarded in the healthcare and life sciences sector in Leeds.
The authority has since confirmed that none of the £3m was in fact paid, and that the remaining approved projects were going to plan.
An eighth scheme, titled “Project Marigold”, is currently in the works, and is hoped to create or safeguard 2,500 jobs in the manufacturing sector.
The scheme was discussed last month during a WYCA meeting, where it was agreed to offer the mystery “global conglomerate” a £5m repayable loan to open a manufacturing base on one of three sites across Wakefield and Leeds.
The meeting heard the plans would entice an investment of £100 million into the region, creating jobs in the “advanced manufacturing” industry.
Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership had told regional leaders: “This is one of the most exciting projects I have seen. The notion that we can create 2,500 jobs that on average will pay 50 per cent above the average across West Yorkshire, is part of the positive journey.
“It’s not been without twists and turns – we have fought off competition from everywhere else in the UK for this and, while not formally confirmed as a preferred location, they are only looking at three sites in West Yorkshire for this.
“The investment decision is going before the main board of this global conglomerate in January next year, at which point we will be moving this at some pace.”
Among the rest of the projects listed was one in Calderdale – a £178,296 grant approved in December 2017 to help a “financial and insurance” firm to create or safeguard 548 jobs in the district.
In March 2020, a £168,350 grant was approved to help a manufacturing firm to bring or keep 168 jobs to Kirklees.
The remaining approved grants – including the never-spent £3m for Project Beta – amount to £8.128m of the total £8.475m, and pertain to schemes in Leeds, with none approved in Wakefield or Bradford.
WYCA did not confirm which companies related to each specific project, although a list of all business grant recipients is published on its website.
Words: Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporter
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