As the Budget gets gradually leaked in time honoured fashion (although much less than last year), today is ‘growth’ day, with the focus on the Government’s response to Heseltine, to be published later today.
We haven’t seen the detail yet but press coverage (particularly good, as usual, in the FT) so far suggests:
i) 81 out of 89 recommendations have been accepted, including: the government drawing up a national growth strategy; seconding more civil servants to the private sector; civil servants being in local growth teams; and more business engagement in the school curriculum.
ii) Recommendations that haven’t been accepted include: setting up unitary authorities; setting out plans for new airport capacity in the south of England before 2015; and beefing up the legal powers of chambers of commerce. The recommendation for a national growth council has been accepted ‘in part’ which means it hasn’t really been accepted; it’s regarded as existing already.
iii) The single pot will be implemented, but it’s likely to be much smaller than Lord Heseltine recommended. It will include skills (but not apprenticeships), housing and transport, and the exact amount is being debated in Whitehall at the moment (for which read there’s a big battle going on, and Whitehall departments are trying to make this as small as possible). The exact amount will be decided on in the Spending Review.
iv) Much of the money will be channelled through LEPs. Each will negotiate a local growth deal, presumably along the lines of City Deals, with the funding allocated depending on the quality of the bid. It will be interesting to see how this fits with what’s in the core package.
I’ll blog again once I’ve seen the detail. But there’s a missed opportunity if the single pot is so small that no meaningful work can be done, if everything is channelled through LEPs and combined authorities are to be ignored (the latest one is in the North East, announced on Friday – a significant achievement) or if local areas get a few more instruments to play with but Whitehall still gets to call the tune. More on this later.