UK: Tory grandee Heseltine urges Government to go ‘further and faster’ to boost growth

A former Tory cabinet minister today urged the Government to go “further and faster” to boost economic growth across the regions by shifting power away from Whitehall.

Lord Heseltine drew praise from business leaders when he made a series of recommendations aimed at “unleashing the power” of cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle.

The former Conservative deputy prime minister said too much power had been accumulated in London as he called for public money to “mobilise the potential” of provincial English cities.

He urged the coalition to produce a long-term strategy for economic growth, including firm commitments against which it can be held to account, suggesting that up to �250,000 of new public funding should be given to local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) over the next few years.

A new national growth council should be established, chaired by the Prime Minister, with a cross-government focus on driving growth and wealth creation, said his 228-page report, commissioned by the Chancellor.

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Lord Heseltine admitted his ideas would go down like a “lead balloon” in parts of Whitehall because he was suggesting government departments should lose some of their power.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the Government was doing an “extremely good” job, but added: “There are things we can do further and faster than we are already doing.

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“There is an urgency. Across the world there are emerging economies after our jobs. They are using every known device to get part of what we want.

“We have to mobilise every resource. We have enormous excellence in companies and universities, but the average needs to be jacked up.”

Lord Heseltine said he wanted to bolster the coalition’s confidence to “take another stride” to unleash the potential of regional cities.

“The key question is whether we can use the scarce public money to mobilise the potential of provincial English cities.”

The report said growth funds administered by different government departments should be brought together into a single pot for local areas.

Local partnerships should bid for funds from central government for a minimum of five years starting from 2015/16, said Lord Heseltine.

The report, entitled No Stone Unturned, also recommends that local authorities should have a new legal duty to consider economic development and that all two-tier English authorities outside London should pursue a path towards unitary status.

John Cridland, CBI director-general, said: “His key point is that we need more local action and leadership, which must be right.

“To successfully rebalance the economy towards private sector growth, every part of Britain needs to grow - we mustn’t just rely on the usual suspects of London and the South East.”

Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, said: “This review is a welcome recognition that all parts of government need to get behind companies that are looking to grow to create the stronger economy we need.

“However, with such a wide-ranging review, the Government needs to consider its proposals carefully to ensure that they offer value for money and review how they would work in practice.”

Chancellor George Osborne said: “I wanted Lord Heseltine to do what he does best: challenge received wisdom and give us ideas on how to bring government and industry together. He has done exactly that. This is a report bursting with ideas and we will study it very carefully.”

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves said: “It’s a damning indictment of this Government that, half way through this Parliament, a former Conservative cabinet minister is still calling for a plan for growth.

“Since the spending review two years ago we’ve had growth of just 0.6% compared to the 4.6% growth George Osborne said he would deliver.

“The result of the Government’s failure is that families are worse off, long-term unemployment is rising and borrowing is going up.”

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