Rural regions 'could miss out' on cash under new government plans
Concerns have been expressed that the South West could be overlooked under new government plans to decentralise power and funding away from Whitehall.
It was announced yesterday that the Government is to implement nearly all of the changes recommended by Tory peer Lord Heseltine last year in his report, No Stone Unturned.
Lord Heseltine called for red tape to be cut and decision-making powers handed back to the regions, giving them greater say over matters such as transport, housing, and vocational training to boost economic growth.
The Government will create a single pot of money, in 2015, for which Local Enterprise Partnerships will bid.
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Lord Heseltine wanted this to be worth around £70 billion but it is believed that the pot will fall well short of this.
In return for greater financial control, the Government will make LEPs set out their long-term plans in Local Growth Deals, with £500,000 of funding over two years made available to help them do this.
The chief executive of the Devon and Somerset Local Enterprise Partnership, Liz Waugh, welcomed the increased funding but urged the Government to ensure that it is calculated in a way that does not favour the more densely populated areas of the South East and North West.
She called on the Government to ensure that rural areas across the country received their fair share, saying she was “really concerned” that it would be done on a per capita basis.
“The concern is that the funding mechanism is fair and that there are sufficient opportunities to bid in from rural and coastal areas,” said Ms Waugh. “We have been spending a lot of time talking to politicians, saying that urban centres are important, but you can’t afford to ignore the rural economy. We want to see a counterpoint to the urban focus.”