By Daniel Hunter
The CBI today (Wednesday) welcomed Lord Heseltine’s review No stone unturned in pursuit of growth.
The independent review looks at how spending departments and other relevant public sector bodies interact with the private sector, and assesses their capacity to deliver pro-growth policies.
“I welcome Lord Heseltine’s review. It identifies a wide range of levers capable of promoting growth which the CBI has been calling for for some time, from education to infrastructure, and from planning to access to finance. It is a thoughtful contribution to the growth debate," John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said.
“His key point is that we need more local action and leadership, which must be right.
“To successfully rebalance the economy towards private sector growth, every part of Britain needs to grow — we mustn’t just rely on the usual suspects of London and the South-East.
“Lord Heseltine’s review highlights the need for powerful governance structures to support private sector growth throughout the UK. The CBI’s recent report The UK’s Growth Landscape set out what needs to change to ensure that the structures in place, such as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), unlock the pockets of private sector potential which exist in all parts of the UK.”
On the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships, Mr Cridland said:
“LEPs have so far lacked the power and resources to impact local growth. Given this review highlights a number of additional areas in which LEPs can help support private sector activity, it is even more vital that they are given appropriate resources to help them to meet this challenge.
“In addition, the CBI is calling for a broader spatial approach than can be provided by LEPs alone to be taken in some policy areas, for example when implementing new transport projects which cross LEP boundaries, where a purely local or central approach will not deliver for business. The CBI has recommended devolving additional funds to LEPs, conditional on collaboration on policies such as transport planning, innovation and economic analysis.”
On the role of chambers of commerce, Mr Cridland said:
“It is right that business representation needs to be strengthened, but the CBI does not support the option of compulsory membership of chambers of commerce. The CBI supports free markets, not conscription.”
On education and skills, Mr Cridland said:
“The CBI has called for measures designed to encourage better coordination between schools and businesses, and therefore welcomes the recommendations around better engagement on the school curriculum, work experience and school governance.
“The challenge will be around how these recommendations are implemented. Priority should be given to fostering links where they are most needed, but the schools in which this type of support could have the most benefit are often the hardest to reach.”
On improving procurement, Mr Cridland said:
“The focus on fostering better understanding and relationships between the public sector and its commercial partners is welcome. A key part of this is the public sector developing better commercial skills and engagement, and better procurement practices.”
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