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Business agency to re-tender

Invest NI will re-tender the contract for its multi-million pound business start-up programme after a legal challenge by Enterprise Northern Ireland (ENI) was settled out of court. ENI had for many years run the Go For It programme through its network of local enterprise agencies-including Newry and Mourne Enterprise Agency-creating thousands of new businesses in the process. Indeed it is estimated that between April 2001 and March 2010 the Newry and Mourne Enterprise Agency, which is headquartered at WIN Business Park helped 1,401 new businesses set up creating 2,863 new jobs in the district. However last September Invest NI awarded the £3.5m contract for the delivery of the programme to the Scottish based Go Group and KPMG. The issue was carried on the front page of the September 14 2011 edition of the Reporter with representatives of Newry and Mourne Enterprise Agency vowing that they would challenge the decision. What followed was something of a vacuum in the delivery of a business start up assistance programme at a time when such a scheme was most needed. Indeed it is understand that 20 people were availing 9of the scheme in Newry and Mourne when the legal challenge began. At the time it was estimated that a final decision on the matter would be made by Christmas but with the matter going on mid April it was confirmed last week that an out-of-court agreement had been reached. In a joint statement Invest NI and Enterprise NI said; ” The legal challenge and current trial are taking much longer than all parties anticipated. Both Enterprise NI and Invest NI are concern that the delay continues to impact adversely on the provision of a full business start up support programme for those members of the public who may be interested in starting a business. As the proposed contract under scrutiny would only run until September 2013 any further delays would have a detrimental impact on the logistics of organising and introducing a new service of this type. On this basis the parties whilst continuing to differ in their views in relation to the issues raised in the litigation have agreed that Invest NI will terminate the current procurement process and that the legal action will end on the basis that Invest NI will be going back out to the market with a revised proposal for the provision of a business start service.


Newry Reporter

25th April 2012