Michael Heseltine – now Lord Heseltine – has become your new best friend. Well, if you’re based in England and looking for investment in your business, that is.The fiery Lord Heseltine has been appointed to chair the “independent approval panel” for the government’s £1bn Regional Growth Fund. The panel is tasked with considering proposals for funding and recommending to ministers which projects should be taken forward. “Instead of following a broken model of unbalanced growth that put the financial sector first, we must help growing companies and entrepreneurs thrive, bringing jobs and prosperity to their communities,” says Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister. “As we take action to reduce public spending and bring down our towering deficit, supporting places that have become overly reliant on public sector employment must be a priority.” This means that although all English companies can apply, in practice the fund will give priority to the regions outside of London and the southeast. The fund was announced by George Osborne in the emergency Budget, and is set up to help areas which are currently highly-reliant on public sector employment to make the transition to a private-sector economy. And it’s you, Britain’s entrepreneurs, which will make this happen. With the government slashing public sector budgets – and the inevitable job losses that accompany this – local businesses must pick up the pieces, encouraging more people to set up their own businesses, and hiring more staff. The government’s local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) will play a big role in this, as the LEPs gradually replace the current Regional Development Agencies. While private sector companies are being invited to bid independently for the fund, LEPs will bring together more bids, working with key partners such as universities. As Vince Cable, the business secretary, says, it’s about creating “sustainable” private sector jobs: “This is about incentivising the growth of private sector-led local economies and mobilising private sector investment. The Regional Growth Fund demonstrates that England is open for business.” We’re keen to hear your views. Will this work? Will the fund find the right investment opportunities? Or will it end up as a massive flop? Leave your comments below.
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