While visiting bespoke machinery manufacturer, TF Automation yesterday (Dec 8), Mr Clegg refuted criticism directed at the Regional Growth Fund by Chuka Umunna, the Shadow Business Secretary.
Despite delays in completed payments from the fund, Mr Clegg said that “over 50% of all the RGF projects have already started, even if they haven’t necessarily got the cheque in their hands.”
Mr Clegg claimed this was key in terms of accelerating the tangible benefits of RGF. “Creating jobs, producing products, designing them, making them, exporting them, it’s already happening because the RGF acts as such a powerful catalyst,” he commented.
Explaining why only a quarter of 50 first round recipients have received the funding they were awarded in the Spring of 2011, Mr Clegg responded: “the due diligence takes a bit of time, but we’ve said to people that the money will be received this autumn or winter, which is precisely what’s happening.”
Mr Clegg was confident in claiming superiority over the previous Labour government in the effectiveness of policies for growth creation in manufacturing. He accused the opposition of being the party who allowed manufacturing to decline, “as sharply, or more sharply than it did under Margaret Thatcher.”
Speaking about the new Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative – launched this week – Mr Clegg said: “Partly what happened was that there was a real decimation of the supply chain. The reason why Vince Cable made this announcement on supply chain support is that we’ve realised that unless you create a healthy supply chain, it is less attractive for big manufacturers who want to be quite close to their suppliers.”
The Deputy PM continued: “It’s really important to them that they are close to their supply chain, that’s the reason why we are providing this extra support.”
Owner and managing director of TF Automation, Tony Hubbert, told Mr Clegg that government changes to the rules surrounding Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) has resulted in a loss of graduate talent coming into the business with innovative ideas and new projects.