Heseltine Speaks at East of England Parliamentary Reception
Heseltine Speaks at East of England Parliamentary Reception

It is widely acknowledged that the East of England will be part of the country that can lead the national economic recovery. However, this can only happen if local partners have the tools (and funding) available to them to address the particular barriers to local growth, which will vary from area to area.

To tackle this challenge the East of England LGA held its first Parliamentary Reception on 30 Oct, hosted By Stephen McPartland MP. Key players, including council leaders, portfolio-holders, and chief executives, East of England MPs, representatives from the Local Enterprise Partnerships and universities, came together to discuss how to unlock the latent potential of the East to benefit the whole of the UK and to develop a shared view on how best to achieve this.

Cllr Tony Jackson, Chairman of the East of England LGA said “At the East of England LGA we recognise that vibrant local economies will drive UK plc’s recovery and that this requires long-term partnership between local government and business in ensuring the future prosperity of the East.  This event provided leading figures in the East of England with a valuable opportunity to discuss the economic and social challenges in the East of England and focus on practical steps necessary to support sustainable business-led growth.”

The Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP, Minister of State for Enterprise and Growth, set out the drivers of growth and how the government was decentralising power and funding for growth to the local level.  He highlighted the importance of strong and sustainable growth that was more evenly balanced across the country and the different sectors and that this was best achieved by putting more trust in local people. 

He set out how the Government has already taken steps to support more sustainable, local growth in the East of England through:

  • The creation of Five Local Enterprise Partnerships to drive sustainable economic growth in the ways that suit their area best
  • Over £118M from Growing Places Fund has gone to the five LEPs in the East of England to unlock stalls in infrastructure and housing projects
  • Three new Enterprise zones at Alconbury, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, and Harlow which will benefit from business rate relief, super-fast broadband and simplified planning
  • £56m of the Regional Growth Fund, funding programmes like New Anglia LEPs new business fund which in its first 13 grants will create 120 new jobs. 
  • Negotiating City Deals with Greater Cambridge, Greater Norwich, Southend and Greater Ipswich.

In response to Lord Heseltine’s report “No Stone Unturned” he stated that the Government can and should go much further, and that, through announcements in the last Spending Review, Local Enterprise Partnerships would be put ever further into the driving seat of growth across their economies.  Those announcements included:

  • A Local Growth Fund from 2015-16 of over £2 billion with funding devolved from transport, skills and housing to the LEPs through a competitive process
  • A further £10 billion of spending for the five years up to 2021 that allows LEPs to plan ahead for strategic new projects set as priorities
  • LEPs to have direction of £5 Billion of European Structural Investment Funds for the next 7 year period starting in 2014. Each LEP has designed a strategy around how best to invest those tranches of the Regional Development Fund, Social Fund and part of the Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

In conclusion he stated that East of England was already well placed to build a prosperous future but encouraged three things:

  1. Continue to work in partnership; the growth deals will be competitive and those areas that speak collectively and convincingly for their areas would get more
  2. Commit to growth; successful growth deals will be there where local resources are put on the table to and where there are clear plans for how they will makes the most of strengths
  3. Innovate; if there are freedoms and flexibilities which are uniquely needed in the East of England to realise growth ambitions now is the time to tell Government.

The Rt Hon The Lord Heseltine followed, stating that he agreed with the approach Government was taking in putting localism at the heart of their policies.  However, he added a note of caution stating that choice and change was good but that it must be fully embraced at all levels, including in Whitehall. He made the following points:

  • Power should be placed at the significant economic levels, based on what local people think should happen
  • Places should be seen in their whole and not be restricted by departmental thinking
  • We need to create genuine partnerships to make localities effective through devolved power 
  • Localities need to prove to Whitehall that they can be effective
  • We need to put incentives into the process around competition to stimulate initiative and challenge
  • Through competition there will be winners and losers, but that he was in favour of losers because that is how you make winners. 

He set out the challenge stating that in the UK we are 20% less productive than the Germans and the Americans.  Our education system is placed 21st in the world.  He outlined concerns around a future skills shortage in the country as the economy recovers.  He stated that for successful devolution, we must undertake a ruthless analysis of the locality, to look at the weaknesses as well as the strengths.

Finally he stated “We must not wait for ‘what London wants us to do’… we need a peasants' revolt and we need local people to argue their case and fight the dominance of London… If you want your power back you are in a battle and you don’t win battles by cosying up to the enemy”

It was a hugely successful event and we would like to thank everyone for attending and supporting the reception.  

Finally, Economic forecasting models for each of the LEP areas in the East of England were produced for the event and are available here:

We need a peasants' revolt!

The Rt Hon The Lord Heseltine -