Heseltine Reveals Radical Plan For Growth
Former Cabinet minister Lord Heseltine has published a sweeping report aimed at stimulating growth, which is littered with criticism of Government inertia and delay.
The report, entitled No Stone Unturned, was commissioned by the Chancellor more than a year ago, but has been dogged by rumours that senior ministers have become increasingly doubtful about its viability.
Lord Heseltine advocates a major shift of power and money from Whitehall departments to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the grassroots business organisations that have replaced Regional Development Agencies under the current Government.
His proposals would result in a massive expansion of LEP finance. Currently each LEP manages a budget running into millions of pounds, but Lord Heseltine suggests they should be empowered to bid for tens of billions of pounds currently administered by central Government.
The report earmarks £49bn of Government funding under the current spending period that would be better spent by LEPs, but suggests the bidding process should only begin in the run-up to the next spending review.
Lord Heseltine is harshly critical of Government departments' unwillingness to change, and argues that the current administration has been guilty of damaging delay in its approach to major projects including re-equipping the aviation network in the southeast of England.
The former president of the Board of Trade admits that many of the ideas contained in his report have been put forward in the past only to be kicked into the long grass.
He argues that there are grounds for optimism in that the current Government will act where others have sat on their hands.
The fact that the Chancellor and Prime Minister were eager for him to take on the job indicates, in his view, their appetite for controversial but productive reform.
Lord Heseltine also points out that some of his proposals "go with the grain" of the Government's localism agenda.
When asked how he would react in a year's time if his report ends up gathering dust like so many before it, Lord Heseltine was philosophical.
"I'll just get on running my garden," he told Sky News. "I've done my bit."