Greater Birmingham Project launched by Lord Heseltine
A three-month project which will seek to establish ways to place Local Enterprise Partnerships at the heart of driving economic development through enhanced powers, has been launched in Greater Birmingham.
The Greater Birmingham Project will see partners involved in economic development in Greater Birmingham develop a business plan which will focus on the wealth creation opportunities in the GBSLEP area.
Lord Heseltine’s report ‘No Stone Unturned’ was published in October 2012 and contained a series of recommendations on how devolved powers should be allocated to the regions with Local Enterprise Partnerships leading policy.
It proposed that LEPs be given greater powers to develop their own tailored local economic plans and, from 2015-16 they would bid for a share of a single national funding pot to support growth.
The Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership will be the focus of the next phase of the process of establishing how such policy would work.
GBSLEP Deputy Chair Steve Hollis will lead the review with a steering group made up of representatives from education, business and local government.
Meriden MP Caroline Spelman and MEP Philip Bennion will also be part of the steering group to ensure the work that is taking place in Greater Birmingham reflects the latest central and European Government thinking.
Lord Heseltine said: “The strength of the local economy is key – we have to put together something that will excite Government.
“Birmingham has volunteered to create the model that the whole of England can follow but the only way for this to endure is to make it work and return power to the people who create the success in the first place.”
Andy Street, Chair of the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “It is important to stress we are at the start of this journey and that there is a great deal of work to be done here in Greater Birmingham.
“This is about challenge and opportunity – we have to make a compelling offer to Government.
“While the GBSLEP continues to work on our core activity to drive economic growth, the Greater Birmingham Project which Lord Heseltine launched gives us a more longer term vision to work towards.
“Over the next three months we will work together – as a city region – with Lord Heseltine’s team and the Treasury to develop a business plan which will focus on the wealth creation opportunities under the existing local government structure.
“We will seek to clearly demonstrate the difference between the current performance and that which is possible in the plan – this is the ‘economic dividend’.
“We believe that with access to a single pot and devolved powers, we can achieve far more than is currently the case.”
Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “I welcomed the overarching conclusions of Lord Heseltine’s report when it was published and I am now hugely encouraged by the launch of this project.
“In supporting it the Government is making available its own resources. That represents clear recognition of the importance of Birmingham and the city region, and a sign that the localist approach is backed at the highest level in Westminster.
“Lord Heseltine’s report has received cross-party support and I believe we now have a unique opportunity to put in place a leading role for the cities and the city regions in driving economic growth and investment.
“We are determined that Birmingham will be at the forefront of that process and we will work with anyone who can help us to achieve the change we need. We know that Lord Heseltine and his team will quite rightly provide a strong challenge to us locally as well as pushing the Government to support us. We are up for that challenge.
“As well as working with Lord Heseltine’s team over the next few months, we are fully committed to working closely with all our neighbours across the city region to grasp the opportunities now on offer.
“If cities are given the freedoms and powers to flourish, I am sure they will. In such challenging times we need the catalyst that will unlock the investment and enterprise we are crying out for to enable economic and social growth.”
Jerry Blackett, Chief Executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said: “We warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to pilot the Heseltine Review in Birmingham. This is an enormous opportunity for Greater Birmingham.
“We are delighted with the confidence Lord Heseltine has shown in Birmingham and look forward to making it easy for those businesses critical to delivering the growth strategy of the LEP to access the support they need.
“He has been extremely forceful in his belief that chambers should have a lead role in galvanising the support of other business organisations and Birmingham Chamber looks forward to working with them to ensure Lord Heseltine’s vision becomes a reality.
“The Chamber is up for radical action. We are in an economic war and the region’s competitiveness needs us to make much better use of national and local resources.
“The chamber brand is a unique international asset. We very much look forward to deciding with GBSLEP how we might best ensure our local businesses receive the very best support and encouragement to help them grow their businesses.”