Two of the biggest regional newspapers in the UK are set to receive millions to distribute in grants to local businesses as part of the Government’s Regional Growth Fund.
Among the 50 successful bidders for the £1.4bn fund announced yesterday were Trinity Mirror-owned Liverpool Echo and Northcliffe title, the Western Morning News. Both are still going through a due diligence process with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DfBIS), but are on course to get the go ahead by June.
Both schemes will see the papers launch competitions inviting small and medium-sized business – particularly those hit hard by the economic downturn – to apply for grants. They will be run over an 18-month period and each paper will be empowered to allocate between £10,000 and £100,000 from the RGF to distribute to the winners.
Press Gazette understands that each title will have at least £1m worth of grants to allocate.
The Western Morning News’ bid was the brainchild of editor-in-chief Alan Qualtrough, and will be run in partnership with its sister title the Western Daily Press and a team from Plymouth University. Qualtrough, who believes the project could create up to 50 jobs in the region, said the winners will be decided by a panel of local business figures.
The Liverpool Echo’s competition will be run along similar lines, and to reduce the cost of running the competition both papers will share administrative work.
According to DfBIS – staff at the titles will also provide “mentoring, consultancy and business support” for the winning bidders.
Qualtrough said that neither the Western Morning News nor the Western Daily Press would directly profit from the scheme. But the publishers will be paid to cover their administrative costs.