By James Partridge, Partner & Head of Corporate & Commercial. Contact Thomson Snell and Passmore 01892 510000.
Michael Heseltine’s “No Stone Unturned” report on economic growth is likely to have far reaching consequences for business and government.
Commissioned by the coalition in March this year, the remit was to help the government to develop a clear plan for growth.
The report itself doesn’t contain many new ideas. What it does do very well is provide an honest appraisal of the challenges facing our economy and the levers which could be applied to try to drive future growth in the economy.
The theme of the report is that government needs to act quickly and decisively to reverse the high degree of centralisation which has occurred over the past century. It contemplates a reconfiguration of responsibilities for economic development between central government and local government, and between government and the private sector. It places the Local Enterprise Partnerships (the business led organisations established in 2010 in place of the Regional Development Agencies) at the forefront of devising local economic strategies. Emphasis is also placed on the role which Chambers of Commerce can play in making local growth happen. All this makes perfect sense and is to be encouraged. After all, local leaders are best placed to understand the opportunities and obstacles to growth in their own communities.
Importantly, the report acknowledges that the LEPs are under resourced and that further funding must therefore be made available to them. Once this happens, the LEPs should be able to develop detailed long term business plans for their areas. They will then submit these plans to bid for a newly created central funding pot on a competitive basis.
The ability to influence spending decisions at a local level should excite business and hopefully encourage more people to get involved in working with the South East LEP and their local Chamber of Commerce.