By Daniel Hunter

Councils can now apply for up to 14 days of free consultancy time with a crack team of specialist economic advisers to help them put together local strategies to boost growth and access finance for projects ranging from town centre regeneration to major infrastructure developments like building new roads.

Set up by the Local Government Association (LGA) following the Heseltine Review and the announcement of the Government's Local Growth fund, the scheme is designed to support councils to take advantage of their local opportunities to drive growth.

Areas that have been hit hardest by unemployment, will be seen as priority. Support will also be offered to those authorities that have identified economic growth opportunities but need to develop a proper business case to support investment.

The economic growth advisers have been recruited from a wide range of organisations and have a wealth of experience from sole traders through to large corporations. Each will offer bespoke advice and have specialisms ranging from business engagement, job retention and creation, infrastructure development, inward investment, regeneration and housing.

Voluntary sector organisations, housing associations, local authorities and other business led organisations will provide additional support.

Cllr Peter Fleming, Chair of the LGA's Improvement and Innovation Board, said: "Local government has great ambition to get on with the job of building homes, creating jobs, supporting businesses and investing in new infrastructure, but we have been hamstrung by deep funding cuts which have forced us to prioritise statutory services like collecting the bins or caring for the elderly.

"This scheme will provide councils with the extra support they need to diversify their local economies, bring in new investment and stimulate growth which will help not just the local community but will also relieve some of the pressure on local services and the growing reliance on benefits.

"Whether it is a sea side town looking beyond its traditional tourist industry to generate new growth, a rural district looking to improve transport links or a group of local authorities looking to attract a major employer to the region, we have the right advisers to help boost local economies right across the country."

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