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Thursday, 29 January 2015

Clegg fires up local economies with £1bn investment

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will today announce that the Coalition government is investing an extra £1bn in local economies by expanding local Growth Deals. The government says it has struck a deal to expand the Growth Deals signed last year with 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships. This funding will help local leaders and businesses in to train young people, create jobs, build more housing and deliver hundreds of vital infrastructure projects, such as local transport improvements and superfast broadband networks.

Liberal Democrats say they know that nobody knows more about what a local region needs to grow than the people who live and work there. The funding is devolved from central government to local authorities, giving communities, not Whitehall the freedom to decide what’s best for their economy. Growth Deals give power back to local councils, colleges and businesses, alongside billions of pounds of funding, to do what’s necessary to ensure their local communities thrive.

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “A quiet revolution is underway in regions across the country and Growth Deals signal the death of the culture where Whitehall calls the shots. I’ve seen for myself the difference it makes to give local areas real power over skills, over business support, and over infrastructure spending. The Coalition Government has been relentless in our efforts to sort out the public finances and set firm foundations for growth. Growth Deals help create a stronger economy and a fairer society by boosting local economies, and providing more jobs, better transport and affordable homes.”

Some of the major projects benefiting from the expansion include:

  • The Tolgus and Barncoose junction improvement project (£5.9m matched with £1.7m) will create a gateway between Redruth and Camborne in Cornwall, unlocking access for over 600 homes, 5,000 sq. metres of commercial space, and the Kresen Kernow cultural project.
  • £8.7m investment in Greater Birmingham and Solihull to create new training facilities, in Solihull and Birmingham, helping to address skills shortages in key sectors of the local economy.
  • £25m (£5m plus £20m local match funding) towards the development of a National Maritime Systems Centre of Excellence in Portsmouth. This centre will focus on maritime and marine capabilities, safeguard and create jobs as well as increase exports.
  • £5m for the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing at Nottingham University, which has match funding from the University and industry of £95m. This project will train over 3000 manufacturing engineers and deliver research and knowledge exchange worth £60m.
  • £4m to expand Engine Shed in Bristol, the highly successful business incubation facility. This investment will provide further incubation and grow on space for high tech companies. This investment will be matched with £5m of local funding.
  • Funding for broadband networks in areas where provision is not currently available, such as remote or rural areas, including: £6m for the Heart of the South West that will contribute towards tackling the next 5% of premises in hard to reach areas (matched with £6m of local funding) and £3.6m for Cumbria to extend availability of Superfast Broadband to an additional 5,000 premises.

Shadow Business Secretary, 
Chuka Umunna, responding to Nick Clegg's Local Growth Fund announcement, later today, said: "The Tory-led government came into office five years ago promising to rebalance Britain’s economy but instead we’ve seen things go into reverse. They abolished the Regional Development Agencies without a proper replacement – a decision which even the Business Secretary now admits caused chaos. Local Enterprise Partnerships have not been properly supported, coverage has been patchy and we’ve seen the government’s flagship scheme, the Regional Growth Fund, dogged by chaos and delay."

Continuing Mr Umunna said: "This is little more than a re-announcement of existing spending allocations which were published in July last year for 2015-16. Ministers have opposed Labour’s ambitious plans to give local areas the powers and budgets they need to drive growth, devolving £30 billion of budgets away from Westminster and enabling combined authorities to retain more income from business rates. Where the Tory-led government has failed to support every part of Britain to succeed, it will be left to the next Labour government to act."