Devolution, celebration and consternation

Published 19th November 2012 at 11:12am

Since my last blog, the important role of LEPs across the UK has been thrown under national media spotlight, as journalists, critics and policy-makers scrutinise Lord Heseltine’s long-awaited report into UK growth policy.

I welcome Heseltine’s recommendations to expand the economic leadership role and funding on offer to LEPs. I really hope that Government will take notice of the report’s overriding message of ‘localism’ as I wholeheartedly agree that to rebalance the national economy they need to devolve further powers and funding.

Although it is still too early to say what effect Heseltine’s recommendations will have on longer-term Government economic policy, the current administration’s decentralising of powers and funding away from Whitehall is already underway. This was further evidenced last month, as the Government awarded £25m of funding to the Sheffield City Region LEP’s RGF (Regional Growth Fund) programme bid.

The LEP’s RGF fund will put local businesses in the economic ‘driving seat’ – giving them the funds they need to grow their businesses and create jobs for the city region. RGF is a great example of devolution in action –handing economic levers for funding to the LEP: recognising that local leaders have a better idea about what is needed here than civil servants in London.

Unfortunately, while we’ve had plenty of reasons to have confidence in the quality of decision making at Whitehall in recent months, our optimism has been severely shaken by the Government’s recent decision to overlook the 2CO project. The LEP is struggling to fathom why the project, which had been projected to generate 2,500 jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds in economic benefits, was not selected by the Government as part of its European funding shortlist. What makes their decision even more incomprehensible is its apparent carelessness – it squanders €180 million of European funding already invested to develop the project. I am now arranging a meeting with senior ministerial officials from the Department of Energy and Climate Change where we will try to salvage a future for the project.

Later this week we will be sending out the second edition of the LEP eNewsletter. With contributions from Executive Team members, Sector Groups and Private Sector Board Members, the newsletter gives you the chance to get some different perspectives on the LEP’s progress. If you haven’t already had the chance to do so, I’d really recommend reading this. You can sign up for our newsletter on this website or click here to download the latest edition.

I look forward to blogging again as I’m sure there will, as always, be much to update you on…

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