ANALYSIS: Does Lotus’ RGF success mask a poor deal for the region?

With �10.4m of regional growth funding secured from government, Group Lotus will be able to turn its vision to create a fleet of new cars into reality.

The firm is thought to be investing �509m to double its annual production to 6,000 cars by 2015. This will create at least 1,100 jobs at Lotus's HQ in Hethel, Norfolk, plus another 800 in the UK supply industry.

The new Lotus models are said to include an Esprit supercar, the Elite coup�, a new Elise roadster, plus the Eterne – a four-seat supercar – and a luxury electric motor, the Ethos.

Rumours were rife that had Lotus not secured the funding, then its future in Norfolk could have been in doubt.

But with business secretary Vince Cable paying a summer visit to Hethel and his deputy Mark Prisk joining Lotus chief executive Dany Bahar at the Frankfurt Motor Show, it was increasingly obvious that the government was keen to be associated with the company.

Ann Steward, cabinet member for economic development at Norfolk County Council, is convinced the funding, alongside bringing forward A11 dualling and the creation of an enterprise zone for Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, is proof that Norfolk is 'on the up'.

'This is an absolutely tremendous result for Norfolk and I'm delighted that a great deal of behind the scenes work by partners to press the case for Lotus has paid off so spectacularly,' she said.

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'This very welcome decision will preserve Lotus as a major manufacturing presence in Norfolk and will mean the retention and creation of a number of highly skilled jobs which are exactly what is needed as we seek to move the county forward so that we take maximum advantage when the global economy picks up.'

Andy Wood, chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said the announcement would help create at least 1,100 jobs at Lotus's Norfolk headquarters and a further 800 in the supply chain.

He said it would also secure another 1,400 jobs within the firm.

'In New Anglia's outline business plan produced at the start of the year, we identified securing Regional Growth Fund support for Group Lotus as a very important priority,' Dr Wood said.

'I am delighted that the work undertaken by us and other partners has helped secure this vital funding which will in time create more than 1,000 jobs in this key sector.'

But that delight was tempered by the fact that other regional bids including a proposal to boost apprenticeships in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex were missed out in a process that saw only seven bids from London, the South-East and the East of England secure approval.

'While we are pleased with the success for Group Lotus – we are disappointed that other parts of the country continue to be given preferential treatment for funding from the Regional Growth Fund,' Dr Wood added.

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