Faster growth should be number 1 budget priority
As I look forward to the Chancellor’s budget statement next week, I hope that stimulating growth in the UK economy will be right at the top of his agenda and that his briefcase contains bold steps to boost business confidence.
I listened with interest on Tuesday last week as Lord Heseltine, the Prime Minister’s adviser on economic growth, appeared on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to talk about the forthcoming budget and his report “No stone unturned: in pursuit of growth”. In the debate, Lord Heseltine said:
“Over a hundred years we’ve gradually sucked power away from the English cities that made this country what it was.”
In the interview, this statement by Lord Heseltine conveyed the essence of his thinking – Government urgently needs to return power to local leaders, who are more capable and better placed to make effective economic decisions affecting local priorities.
Lord Heseltine expects the Chancellor to respond to his recommendations in his budget next week and it is my hope that he does so. In October last year, I welcomed Heseltine’s recommendations to expand the economic leadership role and funding on offer to LEPs.
Heseltine’s recommendations have the potential to rebalance the UK economy by unlocking the vast growth potential of an appropriately funded and resourced LEP. I would urge the Chancellor to seize this opportunity to return power over local economic decisions to local leaders – I believe that this will ultimately make it easier for the Government to get the growth it is so desperately looking for.
I hope, for the sake of UK plc, that the Chancellor’s announcements will reflect the key principles of the Heseltine Review – that the UK needs a comprehensive strategy for national wealth creation through economic growth and that devolving power to the key City Regions is one of the most effective ways to deliver this.
Through demonstrating strong local leadership and a real public-private partnership approach to decision making – our LEP stands out as one with the ability to forge ahead of many other cities with many of the changes proposed by Heseltine – which would be good news for economic growth and job creation in our City Region.
In the national papers last week, articles reported that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have been putting pressure on the Communities Secretary and the Business Secretary to attract more business to enterprise zones and ensure the success of the Government’s 24 zones across the country.
It is now almost one year since we finalised details of our Enterprise Zone, which involved lengthy negotiations with Treasury. Our Zone is now standing out as a real success story – resulting in 228 new jobs for Sheffield City Region. This accounts for over ten percent of the total new jobs created by this flagship Government policy.
Since April 2012, our Zone has welcomed 15 new occupiers (11 new investments and 4 expansions). The majority of these businesses have been from our target modern manufacturing and technology sectors and include X-Cel Superturn, Sarclad, Xeros and Elbee.
I hope that the Chancellor’s budget announcement will include plans to further reinforce the Government’s enterprise zone policy and ensure that we can maximise the Sheffield City Region Zone’s incredible potential.
I hope that the next time I blog it will be able to commend the Chancellor’s economic policy and his clear determination to stimulate UK growth.