Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

A friendly pat on back became kick into action

Listening to Lord Heseltine being interviewed on the radio yesterday morning it initially looked like his report into how the government should manage the economy would be nothing more than a pat on the back for old friends.

But despite betraying an overfamiliarity with George (although not so much Vince) it soon became clear that really he was just buttering up his pals before delivering a damning verdict.

How brave the government was to commission such a report, he said, obviously forgetting that he was once deputy prime minister to one half of the coalition, and how forward thinking they are to open themselves up to a host of new ideas.

Those ideas totalled 89 and in essence say the coalition government has not been doing enough to stimulate economic growth over the last few years.

Obviously David Cameron expected a 'could do better' but probably not a 'hasn't been doing very much' accompanied by such a rousing battle cry as uttered by old Tarzan himself.

In essence the report, entitled No Stone Unturned, wants the coalition to come up with a plan to support business that is both forward looking and decisive.

He wants ministers to stop dithering and make decisions on the likes of airport strategy and for local government to be given funds to allocate to the sectors they think can use it best.

Fine, you might think, but what has this got to do with Northern Ireland?

Well, if you speak to our elected leaders then you would find it chimes with what they've been proposing through the Reform of Public Administration.

Then again you could also argue we've already been used as a test bed for many of the proposals, particularly that of devolving the power to spend public funds to support business.

Whether we prove to be a positive example or other there's no doubt that many of Lord Heseltine's proposals are designed to fit more with the Great Britain economy.

In fact they probably work better when aligned just with England's economy or indeed with that of the south east of England.

Wherever or whatever they are designed for there is no doubt that the report has refocused attention on how the economy can be helped by government rather than being hindered.

Whether David Cameron acts on the proposals and whether any of them impact the Northern Ireland economy remains to be seen but at least the government has been given a kick, and an embarrassing one at that, into action.

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