Government accepts Heseltine localism plan to boost jobs

The Government is set to implement a number of measures proposed by Lord Heseltine as part of an effort to devolve powers to local areas and boost jobs.

No Stone Unturned - the Conservative peer's report published last year - called for red tape to be cut and for decision-making powers to be given back to towns and cities.

The Government has confirmed it is adopting 81 of the report's 89 recommendations either in part or in full.

Lord Heseltine argued that Whitehall has for too long stifled the growth ambitions of cities in the regions and called for local areas to have a bigger say on issues such as transport, housing and vocational training.

The decision to carry through the proposed changes represents good news for England's 39 business-led Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

They will receive an immediate injection of funding worth 500,000 over the next two years to be spent on drawing up plans of how best to drive economic growth.

Then, from 2015, LEPs will be invited to bid for portions of a single pot of money launched by the Government which they can then spend on projects of their choice.

Capital cash currently allocated to departmental budgets and European Union funding will be combined to make up the pot, although the exact figure it will amount to will not be known until next year.

LEPs will be required to set out their long-term plans in Local Growth Deals in exchange for their enhanced powers.

Lord Heseltine's call for closer working between councils, civil servants, business leaders, schools and universities has also been heeded by the Government.

Notably, however, the Government has rejected his call to "clarify urgently" its position on the possible expansion of airport capacity in the south-east of England.

Nevertheless, having approved the majority of his recommendations, members of the Coalition came out in overall support of his report.

Chancellor George Osborne said Lord Heseltine has delivered "bold ideas" that "challenge received wisdom" while Business Secretary Vince Cable expressed the belief that the changes will make the UK more competitive.

Additional support will also be given to key industries such as aerospace and the automotive sectors, he added, suggesting that everything will be done to stimulate growth and boost jobs in those areas.

Copyright Press Association 2013