PROPOSALS to give more control over economic development spending to England’s regions were given a warm welcome yesterday.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne used his Autumn Statement in the House of Commons yesterday to endorse proposals by Conservative peer Lord Heseltine to devolve more economic and business development budgets away for Whitehall to the regions.
Referring to Lord Heseltine’s report, No Stone Unturned, published in October, Mr Osborne told MPs that Local Enterprise Partnerships will be given greater influence over how public money is spent on skills training, housing and transport in their areas.
The Chancellor also said that more Regional Growth Fund money would be made available.
Reacting to yesterday’s announcement, Liverpool City Region LEP executive director for strategic economic development Mike Palin said: “LEPs are clearly at the forefront of the Chancellor’s vision for economic growth in the cities and regions they represent.
“The Autumn Statement contained some positive messages including plans for LEPs working with partners to align skills, transport and housing funding going forward.
“We were also glad to see a focus on some key initiatives including £120m more of additional funding for the national Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative which was originally developed by our LEP, as well as well as an indication that the City Region Employer Pilot scheme, included in our City Deal, may soon be announced.
“The statement also suggested a further round of Regional Growth Funds may be made available and we will work, as we have done before, to ensure that businesses in the city region are well placed to take advantage of that.”
LEPs are also to be given more influence over local economic planning. Mr Palin said: “Its another endorsement of what LEPs are here to do.”
Jenny Stewart, recently appointed Liverpool Chamber of Commerce’s chief operating officer, welcomed the announcement that LEPs could bid for more spending cash, but added: “It will be interesting to see what shape that funding actually takes.
“LEPs will be bidding for that. It will be up to us as a local LEP to do that.”
Chamber chairman John Sutcliffe also welcomed the announcement: “The Chancellor has taken a decisive and radical step by endorsing Lord Heseltine’s proposal for more local control over economic growth funding in England.
“The question is whether this proposed shift from central to local control will actually happen in practice, or whether it will be scuppered by Whitehall. The chamber is a great advocate of local solutions for local growth. We will continue to work closely with the local authority and the LEP to build a stronger city, stronger business support and more exports.”