News - 09 April 2014

Lord Heseltine gives encouragement to LEP investment opportunity

Business leaders and Nottinghamshire’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) put forward their case to win a chunk of government cash when they met political heavyweight Lord Heseltine.

D2N2, the LEP for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, submitted a £2.4 billion investment programme to the government which aims to deliver 55,000 private sector jobs and help build 77,000 new homes by the year 2023.

The government is considering applications from 39 LEPs across England after agreeing to devolve £10 billion over the next five years.

A decision over how much is awarded to each LEP will be made in three months.

D2N2 representatives and business leaders attended a question and answer session with the former deputy prime minister yesterday at New College Nottingham’s Basford Hall campus.

Lord Heseltine, whose No Stone Unturned report in 2012 suggested devolving cash from central government to the English regions to help local businesses , said: “The LEP bids came in one week ago and the government is going to determine to outcome in three months. It’s quite a new way of trying to change the priorities of the public sector.

“The tests we’ll apply will be whether the bids are shovel ready. From April of next year the cash has got to flow.”

Peter Richardson, chairman of D2N2, said: “We recognise a number of things have to happen if we are to be a successful area. The first is to create really powerful partnerships.

“We will do this by showing that the LEP is not a secret society – it is there for the private sector, the public sector, the third sector and for the communities.”

Steff Wright, chief executive of the Gusto Group in Newark, who attended the question and answer session, said: “It’s absolutely the right thing for businesses in this area to be lobbying and promoting themselves through this process.

“We have to make sure that Notts gets its fair share from the pot.”

George Cowcher, chief executive of Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The Q&A session was a good showcase of the strength of business and the public sector here.

“We have a strong manufacturing background to build on the back of and capability to work on, which come out in the strategic economic plan that has been put forward.”

Yesterday’s event was co-hosted by Nottingham North MP Graham Allen, who worked with Lord Heseltine on the 2012 report Keys to the City: Unlocking Urban Economies through Devolution, which called for a greater transfer of power from central government to core UK cities, such as Nottingham.

As chair of the political and constitutional reform committee, Mr Allen leads a taskforce which aims to improve the lives of people living on city estates similar to those in his constituency, including Basford, Aspley and Bulwell, which he believes have “lost their identity” with the loss of major employers such as Raleigh and the mining and textile industries.

Mr Allen said: “It was an incredibly encouraging day when you get someone like Michael taking an interest and coming up to Nottingham to see for himself.

“We had good support from across Nottingham, but we do need to get the Nottingham north businesses more involved.”

Anna Mimms, chief executive of BEST Group, based in Broxtowe, said: “We want to see Nottinghamshire considered as a whole picture. We have got to make sure that investment comes in to create new industry, but that inward investment has to be placed in some of the estates. We have to make sure that jobs are created across Notts and the estates really need to benefit.”

D2N2 chief executive, David Ralph, said: “We fully support the proposals being developed to re-balance our outer city estates in order to tackle social problems and bring about sustainable change.

“It has been submitted to government as part of our Strategic Economic Plan.

“The rebalancing outer city estates programme demonstrates not only the LEP’s commitment to growth but also to ensuring that growth reaches out to all communities.

“It will provide a best practice, evidence-based example for our area, our region and for England of how the strategy of a LEP economic plan can both contribute nationally to detail on urban policy and locally to some of our most challenged areas.”

Source: Nottingham Post

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