Almost a quarter of a million jobs will be created or safeguarded under the latest spending round of a government fund aimed at boosting growth in England, ministers have announced.
Around 130 projects will benefit from £1 billion released from the Regional Growth Fund, which is expected to attract £6 billion of private sector investment.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the projects were selected from more than 400 applications and will safeguard or create 240,000 jobs, in addition to 300,000 from two previous rounds of the fund.
Around £700 million will go to private firms and a further £358 million to local authorities and enterprise partnerships. Mr Clegg, who is visiting companies in the North East, said: "This £1 billion boost for growth in towns and cities across England is creating jobs that will last in the parts of the country that need it most.
"In tough economic times the Regional Growth Fund is good value for taxpayers' money. This £1 billion round of the fund is pulling in £6 billion of private sector investment.
"I have seen for myself the real difference this makes on the ground - from iconic businesses like Eddie Stobart expanding in Widnes and creating 3,450 jobs in the local area, to the Sunderland car parts factory Unipres who have used their funding to buy a new 3,000 tonne press, letting them accelerate production and take on an extra 316 people.
"The Regional Growth Fund is working, on track and supporting businesses to create jobs and grow the economy."
Steve Radley, director of policy at EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, commented: "Today's announcement will help stimulate investment and create jobs in manufacturing around the country. The success of local enterprise partnerships in accessing funding suggests that some of them are now starting to engage better with business and, it should provide them with the resources that many have been lacking to begin driving local growth."
"But the Government must not rest on its laurels. The delays experienced in previous rounds must be avoided and funding must flow out to business much faster, whilst the longer-term future of the fund must also be clarified, especially if Government sees this as a key element of its growth strategy."
John Longworth, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "We are pleased that the £1 billion promised for the third round of the Regional Growth Fund has been allocated to projects that will spur business investment and job creation in the regions. However, pace is critical. Many RGF projects have been delayed by bureaucratic hurdles, meaning that they have not yet started to have an impact on the ground. Some bidders have even withdrawn, meaning that over £100 million has been recycled back into the fund."