One of the directors of a Lincoln village brewery has hit out at the government for deliberating withholding vital European Union grants to small businesses.
The director, who did not wish to be named, said that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) decision to put payments on hold was “ridiculous”, and had left the Ferry Ales Brewery in Fiskerton in limbo.
As reported first on The Lincolnite back in June, the Greater Lincolnshire region could be set to lose out on £130 million from the EU following the UK’s decision to leave the organisation.
Both pro-Remain and pro-Leave candidates have so far been unable to offer any guarantees over funding, with the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership also seeking clarification.
Now the real-life effects of this indecision on businesses in Lincoln have been put into focus.
The brewery was intending to use so-called EU LEADER funds to create a microbrewery at its site, giving new life to a disused agricultural building and creating three full-time jobs.
The director, who did not wish to be named, said: “They’ve made the decision but the government is refusing to tell us what it is.
It’s commercially naive and to be frank it’s just not good enough from DEFRA.
“We haven’t left the EU and we aren’t going to be doing for at least two years so I really don’t understand the problem. Our capital grant would be all spent within six months, while we remain a member.”
LEADER is a European Union fund managed through the Rural Payments Agency on behalf of DEFRA in England, as part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) to improve agriculture, the environment and rural life.
Local Action Groups were invited to bid for LEADER funds, aimed at boosting economic growth in rural areas, for projects for the period 2014-2020.
In Lincolnshire, four bids were developed by Lincolnshire County Council:
- The Coastal Action Zone area was awarded £1.28m
- The Kestevens area was awarded £1.53m
- The Lindsey Action Zone was awarded £1.75m
- The Wash Fens Rural Development Programme was awarded £1.42m
The Ferry Ales Brewery director explained that DEFRA’s failure to reveal the decision would have a knock-on effect, not just for the brewery but for other businesses in the area.
He said: “We will make a decision on the project this week or early next week – the project will go ahead regardless of what the government is doing.
“However, if we don’t hear a decision the project will be scaled back. Instead of creating three jobs we will only create one.
“The impact stretches far further into the local economy as well. We were planning to brew 3,000 to 5,000 litres per week – again this will be scaled back.
“We won’t buy as much malted barley or hops, we won’t use as much water. All this affects suppliers, pubs and the local economy as a whole.”
The director also revealed that the brewery’s order for the Lincoln Christmas Market could be scrapped because of the delay.
He added: “I know of at least three other projects in the Lindsey Action Zone which are in the same position as us.
“DEFRA needs to at least tell us what the outcome is of our application, and if we’re successful, tell us when the money will be released.”
Has your company been affected by Brexit or had EU funding decisions put on hold? Email [email protected]