Miranda Dobson

Member Article

Heseltine reports on Birmingham LEP economic project

Lord Heseltine has presented the results of a pathfinder project in the Birmingham region, which hoped to test out suggestions made in his “No Stone Unturned” economic report.

Greater Birmingham and Solihull’s Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) was the guinea-pig for the Conservative peer’s recommendations made in a report commissioned by the Prime Minister last year.

After presenting the report in October, GBSLEP has shown how changes to funding packages and power distribution could accelerate growth in the city region.

“The Greater Birmingham Project: The Path To Local Growth” was presented to the Chancellor, George Osborne, by Lord Heseltine who worked with stakeholders across the city.

The report highlights the benefits of devolving a substantial “Single Pot” of Government funding, and explains how this could accelerate a number of existing and new ideas in the GBSLEP area.

It also introduced the concept of a Supervisory Board that elects nine local authority leaders, who would provide political accountability for the management of the Single Pot.

Lord Heseltine said: “In the time I have been working on the Greater Birmingham Project I have been impressed with the energy and determination of partners right across the city region, as well as their opportunism in coming forward to work with me on developing the ideas contained in ’No Stone Unturned.”

“That report was based on the concept of bidding for a Single Pot of central money, an idea which was welcomed by the Chancellor, who committed the Government to the devolution of a greater proportion of growth-related spending to local areas from April 2015.

“The ideas identified in this new report show that Greater Birmingham has the vision, the determination and, I believe, the basis of corporate governance essential for the Single Pot to work.

“The report illustrates the extraordinary opportunities and latent strengths of the GBSLEP economy. Now it is important that Government clarify its position as far as the Single Pot is concerned.”

“I hope this report provides further reassurance to the Chancellor that this approach is one that can unlock the potential of the regions and bring about a step-change in the performance of the UK economy.”

Further key ideas detailed in the report included the expansion of Birmingham Airport, a Birmingham City Centre Enterprise Zone, and sector-specific Acceleration Zones.

GBSLEP’s report also suggested using Single Pot funding to tackle poverty and deprivation, as well as directly funding skills so they are matched to business growth in the region.

Digital connectivity was also a high priority, along with the suggestion of “UK Central”, a scheme that would capitalise on the potential of the M42 “Economic Gateway.”

Andy Street, chair of GBSLEP, commented: “The report confirms the potential of a number of transformational opportunities that through the Single Pot could become a reality relatively quickly.

“This is a win-win for Government and for Greater Birmingham and, ultimately, the UK economy. There is a shared determination and vision across our city region about what needs to be done.

“We now need to build on our current progress by continuing to trailblaze in the way Lord Heseltine envisages.

Cllr Ken Meeson, Leader of Solihull MBC, added: “We have worked as part of the Local Enterprise Partnership to demonstrate clearly to Government how a diverse range of councils from across the region can work in partnership with the private sector to deliver jobs, investment and prosperity.

“Collectively we could realise our vision in a more robust and efficient fashion through the proposed Single Pot.

“Projects like the M42 Gateway offer an exciting opportunity which will not only benefit Solihull, but the wider LEP and the UK economy as a whole.”

Greg Clark, MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Minister for Cities, said: “The economic potential of this area when everyone is working together is vast – it can be a powerhouse of the nation.

“The Government is determined to empower local economies to create jobs and growth. The fact that business and civic leaders – of all the main political parties – have come together to make solid proposals is a real achievement.

“It puts the region in pole position as the Government is poised to act on the recommendations of Lord Heseltine’s national report to empower local economies with powers and resources to create jobs and growth.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Miranda Dobson .

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