£1.4bn regional growth fund opens
A £1.4 billion regional growth fund aimed at creating jobs and "rebalancing" the economy in the face of public sector spending cuts has been declared open for business by the Government.
Ministers published a White Paper on Local Growth which they said would shift power to local communities and businesses, tackle barriers to investment and streamline the planning system.
A total of 24 local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) will be set up in England to work with the Government, help allocate funds, deal with planning issues and business regulation.
Ministers also set out "radical" new proposals to look at ways for local authorities to keep the business rates they collect locally. Under the current system, more than £20 billion of business rates collected by councils are pooled by central Government and redistributed across all local authorities.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "The knowledge and expertise of the private sector, local authorities and their local communities will be crucial as we work to create a better environment for business and ensure that everyone has access to the opportunities that growth brings.
"The measures set out in today's White Paper demonstrate the coalition's ambition to create a fairer and more balanced economy - one that is driven by private sector growth with business opportunities spread more evenly across the country and between industries."
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "Over the last decade, the country's economy became skewed by artificial boundaries and top-down prescription that did not work.
"We want to create a fairer and more balanced economy driven by private sector strength, and our plan for local growth will create local enterprise partnerships, reform the planning system and introduce development incentives for local authorities, like allowing them to keep their business rates, so all parts of the country benefit."
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander said: "The spending review made radical changes to way local government is funded, putting the local and the government back into Local Government. Now this White Paper paves the way for local authorities to drive growth in their own communities, delivering on our promise to give power back to the people."
Steve Radley, director of policy at the Engineering Employers Federation, said: "Many of the LEP proposals have failed to make their mark with manufacturers so far. Whilst the White Paper provides much greater clarity of how LEPs fit into the Government's growth strategy, they must now get on with the job of engaging with business and demonstrating how they can make a real difference."