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Complied by Cass Gilroy-Business Editor

UK government publish map for “Assisted Areas” to help businesses

The British government has now published its map of Assisted Areas showing the zones where businesses can apply for regional aid for the next seven years. They have also unveiled a new package of measures to help areas left off the map. This package, announced to Parliament by Margaret Hodge, Minister for Industry and the Regions, will allow Regional Development Agencies to give grants to small and medium sized businesses in all the areas squeezed off the map from January 2007. A draft UK map published for consultation in July had to include a cut of a fifth of the UK's coverage under EU rules. But this new map keeps most of those cuts, although it incorporates more than 30 areas where the Government has made changes in response to representations. It will now be sent to Brussels for final approval.

Margaret Hodge said: "We have had the difficult job of prioritising areas eligible for regional aid, with a 20% cut in the overall coverage of the UK. We set out to make regional aid available where it is needed most to expand industry and maintain jobs. We listened hard, and we made changes to reflect local views wherever we could. We had tough choices to make, but I believe we have reached the best balance we could between the needs of areas and the opportunities in those areas." 

The UK Government has based the 2007 map on areas where Assisted Area status will have the greatest impact on promoting growth, productivity, skills and jobs. Four measures were used to decide how to prioritise Britain's coverage: * the employment rate; * the level of skills; * the number of people claiming incapacity benefit; and, * manufacturing as a share of employment. 

These measures allow a focus on those areas where the impact of state aid can be maximised. The EU rules agreed by all member states mean some areas which enjoy coverage at present are not eligible to be included in the future because overall their economies are too strong within the EU.


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