Osborne hands LEPs extra £2bn a year

Local Enterprise Partnerships will be able to bid for money to boost their work in the regions from a £2bn-a-year new Single Local Growth Fund announced by Chancellor George Osborne in the Spending Review on Wednesday.

The budget is far lower than the £49bn a year Lord Heseltine recommended in his paper No Stone Unturned in Pursuit of Growth published in October 2012.

There are 39 LEPs across England. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls called the new fund's budget "pathetic".

Further details of the SLGF are due to be released on Thursday.

Osborne's Spending Review, for 2015/16, also pledged:

  • Funding for 180 new free schools
  • £50bn a year into roads, rail and other infrastructure
  • Green light for High Speed 2 rail link between London and North
  • 10% cut to admin budget for Department for Communities & Local Government and further £126m cut from resource budget

The full 68-page Government document outlining the Spending Review can be viewed here

Industry reaction

Ian Marsden, PwC's partner and Northern lead for property and construction "There is no doubt that the recession and ensuing period of economic volatility has severely impacted the confidence and prosperity of the UK construction sector. We will need to see more stimulus and encouragement for the industry as part of the Government's spending plans around investment for infrastructure and construction for this situation to change.

"In the last 12 months [to end of March 2013] alone we have seen the UK construction sector lose 53,000 UK jobs. This is amidst the context of a workforce that, on the whole, is working for longer and retiring later. If we then factor in the reality of a growing skills shortage in the construction, manufacturing and engineering sectors then we must also see additional support for businesses in the forms of apprenticeship and training schemes."

Christine Gaskell, chairman of Cheshire & Warrington LEP "The Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership fully supports Government plans laid out to reduce the deficit, by doing so this will create the building blocks needed to bring the UK into sustained economic growth. We welcome the government's commitment to devolving power and investment decisions to local bodies, in particular we welcome the additional investment in roads and infrastructure to maximise the level of investment in Cheshire and Warrington."

John Cridland, CBI Director-General "The Chancellor has carefully walked a tightrope of protecting growth, while making sizeable savings to pay down the debt.

"Infrastructure is rightly singled out as the most effective engine for growth, as we urged. While the Government talks a good game on infrastructure we've seen too little delivery on the ground so far.

"It is critical we see a real pipeline of projects announced tomorrow, so investors know what schemes are going ahead, where and when.

"Other pro-growth areas including science, innovation, skills and exports have also been shielded from cuts. The £185m boost for the Technology Strategy Board – a crucial anchor for innovation – is particularly welcome.

"With stretched government finances it is tough but necessary to target automatic progression pay in the public sector. It is encouraging to see that Government will have greater control of the welfare budget through the new cap.

"The next big challenge to address is the issue of ring-fencing to ensure that efficiency flows across all parts of the public sector."

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