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Delivering growth: How!?

Delivering growth: How!?

🕔02.May 2013

220px-Jack_full_faceJust How do you deliver jobs and growth? It’s a question George Osborne has been struggling with – closer to home so it would seem has the Board of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP).

As Paul Dale points out in his piece, the document makes a bold opening.

“We know historically there has been no shortage of economic strategies – yet none have fully delivered what they have promised. We will deliver.”

It’s the journey which is the difference, we are told. The process has certainly involved local authorities and many other parties more extensively than predecessor documents from AWM. It’s stretching a point to say the result is fully owned by the city region when the consultation process for Strategy for Growth was based on such a thin document.

GBSLEP had a challenging start with a vague brief from the Government, zero powers and no budget. As the recent Business Select Committee report pointed out, the dual reporting line to BIS and DCLG is unhelpful whilst the lack of security in long term funding hinders its ability to plan and deliver.

Delivering Growth points to the achievements of GBSLEP in its first two years. The Enterprise Zone, the City Deal and the Greater Birmingham Project (the Hezza Mission) all have the potential to be game changers. The Board (and all involved) deserve credit for that, especially from a standing start. However, the document also suggests that “our strategy is the most important piece of work we have completed to date – the next, far more important piece, will be delivering it.” Quite.

This document is very light in terms of governance or internal mechanics, although GBSLEP’s recent The Path to Local Growth laid out proposals for a Supervisory Board of local authority leaders to sit above the GBSLEP Board, thus providing the Partnership with delegated authority and a route to accountability. Lord Heseltine has made clear, most recently at the Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner, that we are in a battle with Whitehall and particularly the Treasury which will do everything possible to resist the Single Growth Pot initiative. As if it was not difficult enough, it now emerges that Vince Cable says the multimillion pound spending pots are not going to happen pointing to issues of accountability, capacity and value for money at the LEPs.

GBSLEP’s Strategic Framework will look very different if the momentum and scale of the Greater Birmingham Project is effectively vetoed by the Business Secretary.

It’s not that there is much to disagree with in the document. The ambitions are high; the assessment of the challenges; the vision and values; the approach and the characterisation of the city region’s strengths are all far from erroneous. The question begged is How to answer the challenges and exploit the opportunities.

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