The Local Growth White Paper was presented by Business Secretary Vince Cable yesterday. It announced the creation of 24 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), which the Government sees as a replacement for Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). The North East will get one LEP, for Tees Valley, in the first wave, but the Government has also signalled support for a second LEP covering the rest of the region, and a North East Economic Partnership (NEEP) carrying out strategic functions across the area.
The £1.4bn Regional Growth Fund is now open; the first round of bidding will run until 21 January 2010, and Government has clarified the criteria against which bids will be assessed.
Fresh incentives for development have been announced, including reforms to planning and local taxation which could ultimately lead to re-localising business rates.
The Paper also clarifies a series of issues around economic development including business support. Full details can be seen here.
Several strands in the announcement are to be welcomed. Government has rightly recognised the need for strategic functions to be delivered across the North East. There must be a firm focus now within the region on establishing the LEPs and NEEP swiftly and with businesses centrally involved. NECC Chief Executive James Ramsbotham's comment on this can be seen here.
Reforms to planning are mixed bag; we welcome the presumption in favour of development, but have concern about how local plans will work in practice . Similarly on local taxation changes, incentives to local authorities to support growth are welcomed, but business will need to be convinced that full re-localisation of business rates will not lead to increased taxation in areas with lower council tax base.
Changes to business support were expected and the shift to prioritise businesses with high growth potential is sensible, but responses to specific challenges and opportunties in the North East must not be diluted by a generic national approach.
NECC members can see a full briefing by logging in to the NECC website and clicking on 'Campaign Updates'.
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