French connection will mean Euros boost for Norfolk
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Norfolk County Council is to employ staff in France after the authority was put in charge of a 350m European grant scheme - which leaders say will inject millions of Euros into the county and hand businesses a vital boost.
Council leaders say it will raise Norfolk's profile and influence in Europe, potentially helping the county's businesses to get their names known over the Channel.
The council was today named as manager of the France (Channel) - England Interreg Programme, which will mean the authority is in charge of a fund to boost economic growth in an area stretching hundreds of miles from Cornwall to The Wash in the UK and from Calais to Cape Finisterre in France.
It will mean about £12m will be pumped directly into the Norfolk economy, while 30 skilled county council jobs will be created, some of which will be in France.
And council leaders say the boost to Norfolk's profile could lead to further investment, while creating chances for the county's companies to get work in Europe.
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George Nobbs, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: 'This is a major vote confidence in the county council. No English public body has been asked to handle this project before and the fact that Norfolk was the choice of both the British and French Governments is massive vindication of our standing as an authority.
'We will be responsible for allocating major international projects from the Wash to Land's End and from the Pas-de-Calais to Cape Finisterre.
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At a time when we have had to put up with so many negative stories about local government it is a real shot in the arm for us here in Norfolk to win this prestigious and financially significant project. I am immensely proud of Norfolk, as we all should be today.'
Andy Wood, chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, welcomed the announcement and looked forward to further funding in the future.
He said: 'The LEP and our partners are keen to ensure that we secure as much funding as possible from Europe to help strengthen our economy and support the creation of new jobs.
'Last month the government confirmed the role New Anglia LEP will play in overseeing around £81m of European funding over the next seven years.
'This announcement builds on this and is certain to lead to additional funding being made available for our area. Norfolk County Council should be given great credit in securing this key role.'
There will be a number of possible themes for the 2014 programme, including: promoting investment in innovation and research, product and service development, social innovation and public services; low carbon research, innovation and adoption; innovation in environmental protection, resource efficiency and green growth and support for social enterprises.
The current programme, which has been managed by the region of Haute Normandie in northern France since 2007, funds nearly 130 co-operation projects between France and England, and involves around 500 different organisations on both sides of the Channel.
Council bosses said, of the 30 jobs which will be created, the core team will be in Norfolk. Some will have to be bilingual and some of the jobs will be based in other parts of the programme area, including in France. Richard Howitt, Labour Euro MP for the East of England, said: 'I am delighted, because, the interreg programme makes up about half of all the European money we can get coming into Norfolk. 'In recent years there has been a danger that it was not going to be claimed because nobody on this side of the Channel had the expertise to manage it.
'I warmly welcome Norfolk coming forward and the investment will be a big help for businesses. Norfolk's name is going to be right up there which is good for the city council and good for businesses looking to export to France.'