The D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has welcomed positive measures set out in today’s (July 8) Budget – but wants to see the Chancellor now speed up the devolution of powers to the ‘Midlands Engine’, praised in his speech.
Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget contained a number of positives welcomed by D2N2, including those specifically aimed at boosting the Midlands Engine. These included:
On the Economy –
- Nottingham was announced as the future location (along with the five others of London, Swansea, Newcastle, York and Bath) for a new ‘Next Generation Digital Economy Centre’. The Budget announced the centres, to cost a total of £23million, would exploit opportunities in the digital economy across the creative industries, finance, healthcare and education sectors. These are to be run in partnership with LEPs, regional councils, and business, it was announced.
- The invitation to universities, cities, LEPs and businesses to map strengths and identify potential areas of strategic focus for different regions through a series of science and innovation audits.
- As part of its long term economic plan for the Midlands and a regional approach to skills, the Government has today pledged to work with LEPs such as D2N2, their partners and emerging combined authorities to agree a clear delivery plan for this by the autumn (2015).
On Transport –
- A further £5million additional funding for Midlands Connect. The group (formed last year) of business leaders, local authorities, Network Rail and the Highways Agency from the East and West Midlands, champions better and more strategically placed transport networks across the region.
- Funding support for stations on the Robin Hood Line to Edwinstowe and Ollerton will be backed, subject to a business case.
On Combined Authorities –
- The Government support for two Combined Authority (CA) proposals in the East Midlands directly references the CA proposals by Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, and Derby and Derbyshire, submitted immediately prior to the General Election and, together with the LEP, form the governance backbone to local devolution. If approved by Parliament, the two new bodies would secure local powers to make collective decisions on issues including the economy and transport. The Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, and Derby and Derbyshire CAs could be set-up by Easter 2016.
D2N2 also welcomed the Government’s invitation for more areas and regions to bid to set-up Enterprise Zones in their area, with the help of their local enterprise partnerships. The D2N2 area already includes the recently extended Nottingham and Derby Enterprise Zone, and the Markham Vale EZ in north Derbyshire.
David Ralph, Chief Executive of the D2N2 LEP (pictured below), however, called for devolution for the Midlands to be progressed further and faster.
Following its Combined Authority application, the D2N2 LEP has been at the forefront, with local authority partners, in lobbying Government for devolution to this area. In March, D2N2 Chairman Peter Richardson was part of a delegation which visited Westminster leaders to discuss the issue and deliver the D2N2 area’s Devolution Prospectus of proposals.
Mr Ralph today said: “The Midlands has a huge role to play in the rebalancing of the UK economy, through its engineering and manufacturing strengths, and its strong emphasis on innovation delivered through world class companies and universities. Only today, responding to a question from South Derbyshire MP Heather Wheeler, the Prime Minister praised Derby trainmaker Bombardier, which last week announced it had won £358million in contracts to deliver and maintain rolling stock for Transport for London.
“But to do more the ‘Midlands Engine’ Mr Osborne referred to in his Budget needs the powers to determine its own economic path, which can only come through devolution. Working with our fellow East and West Midlands partners, we will continue to lobby the Government to move in the direction of devolution.”
Today’s Budget announcement of a national living wage to be set at £7.20 an hour from next April (2016), rising to £9 by 2020, was also welcomed by Mr Ralph as something which would eventually be good for business and employment; a view supported by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
For further information contact Sean Kirby, D2N2 Communications Officer, on 0115 9578749 or email: email@example.com