Clawback fear over unspent £10m funding pot in Sheffield City Region

The Lightweighting Centre will be based in two buildings attached to Sheffield University's flagship Factory 2050 on the former Sheffield City Airport site.
The Lightweighting Centre will be based in two buildings attached to Sheffield University's flagship Factory 2050 on the former Sheffield City Airport site.
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A £10m pot to fund projects across Sheffield City Region could be clawed back by Government, it is feared.

The City Region invited bids for projects to help with a forecast underspend as the end of the financial year loomed.

Some 62 applications were received, including two from Sheffield University seeking cash for a £31m ‘Lightweighting Centre’ on the Advanced Manufacturing Park and a £24m apprentice centre for aircraft maintenance and repair at Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

A report to the Combined Authority states: ‘Discussions have been continuing throughout 2017/18 with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to agree a permitted carry forward of this underspend value...However, this is not likely to be confirmed until the outturn position is fully known and the 2018/19 grant offer letter has been received.’

Outturn refers to the actual amount left unspent at the end of the financial year.

In November, the Local Enterprise Partnership, the private sector arm of the City Region, started compiling a reserve pipeline of projects after an ‘open call’ for bids.

The report adds: ‘Should MHCLG approve the carry forward of the unspent funds into 2018/19 or should there be any programme slippage within 2018/19 it will be necessary to consider projects from the reserve pipeline.’

But: ‘It is important to note at this stage there is no guarantee of funding for these reserve schemes and a further update will be provided when the 2017/18 outturn position is known and when the 2018/19 grant offer letter has been received and the available funding confirmed.’

It ends that the LEP: ‘Notes the need to progress projects submitted via the open call process which have scored well at strategic business case stage to continue to develop a business case such that any funding carried forward or becoming available within the year can be fully spent within 2018/19.’

The £31m ‘Lightweighting Centre’ plan has already secured a £10m grant from the City Region, last year.

It will research ways to reduce weight in aircraft and vehicles by using advanced materials such as titanium and aluminium alloys. It will be part of Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and based in two buildings attached to the flagship Factory 2050 on the former Sheffield City Airport site.

Prof Keith Ridgway, executive dean of the AMRC, said last year: “The purpose of the Lightweighting Centre is to keep Sheffield at the leading edge of materials and manufacturing research.”

A £24m aeronautics apprentice training centre at Doncaster Sheffield Airport could help land huge airline maintenance contracts, its backers say. Plans are being drawn up for a new building with a hangar on a prime plot beside the runway which would train up to 100 apprentices from local companies.