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‘Show us your money’, MPs tell George Osborne

‘Show us your money’, MPs tell George Osborne

🕔19.Jun 2013

MPs have dropped party political differences to urge George Osborne to approve “substantial” funding to create jobs and drive economic growth through the Greater Birmingham Project.

A national Single Pot of Whitehall money envisaged by Lord Heseltine in his No Stone Unturned report must be more than “a few billion pounds” if it is to accelerate investment,  according to Caroline Spelman (Con Meriden), Jack Dromey (Lab Erdington) and Lorely Burt (Lib Dem Solihull).

The three wrote to the Chancellor ahead of next week’s announcement on the 2013 Spending Round in a letter also backed by 13 other West Midlands MPs demanding that he back his verbal support for Lord Heseltine’s report with cash on the table.

In their letter the MPs say: “We strongly support the report of the Greater Birmingham Project -The Path to Local Growth. The project brought together business and political leadership with united cross-party backing. It presented a shared agenda of utmost importance for the future prosperity of both Greater Birmingham and the UK.

“As you make your decisions in the Spending Round this month we urge you to respond positively to the two main messages in the report. The proposed Single Local Growth Fund must be both wide in scope and substantial in scale if local areas are to achieve the full potential for driving growth.

“The value of the devolved single pot lies not just in giving local areas the power to accelerate investment but in their ability to join up programmes from across government and to leverage significant additional funding.

“A fund limited to a few billions drawn from a small number of departments, with strings attached will not achieve this.“

The letter is intended to put Mr Osborne on the spot following an intervention last month by Business Secretary Vince Cable who appeared to dismiss the idea of a single pot fund.

The MPs, from all of the GBSLEP constituencies, urge Mr Osborne to recognise the “immense ambition” displayed by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, including the organisation’s backing for a plan to make Birmingham Airport a national hub, linked to major investment in the M42 Gateway generating 250,000 jobs.

The letter adds: “Together, the political and business leaders of Greater Birmingham have made a clear offer to government to be in the vanguard of the local growth revolution that Lord Heseltine’s proposals could unleash. We are ready to move forward ahead of the pack and help to make the process a reality.”

Launching his report in Birmingham earlier this year, Lord Heseltine said: “In the time I have been working on the Greater Birmingham Project I have been impressed with the energy and determination of partners right across the city region, as well as their opportunism in coming forward to work with me on developing the ideas contained in ‘No Stone Unturned’.

“That report was based on the concept of bidding for a Single Pot of central money, an idea which was welcomed by the Chancellor, who committed the Government to the devolution of a greater proportion of growth-related spending to local areas from April 2015.

“Now it is important that Government clarify its position as far as the Single Pot is concerned – I hope this report provides further reassurance to the Chancellor that this approach is one that can unlock the potential of the regions and bring about a step-change in the performance of the UK economy.”

The big ideas identified in Lord Heseltine’s report include:

  • Developing the M42 Economic Gateway, dubbed ‘UK Central’.
  • The expansion of Birmingham Airport.
  • Birmingham City Centre Enterprise Zone and Sector Acceleration Zones.
  • Directing skills funding locally, enabling them to match the supply of skills more closely with the needs of growth businesses of the future.
  • The acceleration of Digital Connectivity.
  • Using Single Pot funding to tackle poverty and deprivation.

The management of the single pot by GBSLEP would be overseen by a supervisory board consisting of the nine council leaders whose authorities make up the LEP.

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