Local enterprise partnership conference

Draft speaking notes - may differ from the delivered version. This Government came to power with a different view of how to create the conditions…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Rt Hon Lord Pickles

Draft speaking notes - may differ from the delivered version.

This Government came to power with a different view of how to create the conditions for economic growth.

I didn’t really have an enduring belief that regional strategies, and targets imposed from on high, were the answer.

We believe in local power, matched by local responsibility.

I think the thing that’s most exciting about local enterprise partnerships is that there is no preconceived pattern. Philip Hammond’s earlier announcement supports this approach.

It’s an unprecedented opportunity for local leaders to take choices and to make decisions.

To create jobs for local people. To attract investment.

This is one of those points in history where individuals really can have a chance to make their mark. Nothing is prescribed. Just get on with it and see how fast you can go. Perhaps go so fast that government has to catch up with you.

Your leadership and determination will make the difference between whether these partnerships fly - or falter.

It’s hugely to the credit of the partnerships that you have got off to such a strong start. And I know that much of that has been showcased today.

At this point I would like to thank David for the work he has done in leading the Network and bringing everyone together today.

Businesses and councillors have brought enthusiasm and commitment and hard work to the task. Producing a strategy document in one and a half days, producing a ‘to do’ list that is only one page long.

Many business people have chosen to step away from more lucrative roles to do this.

In fact, the cast of the boards across the country would make many a blue-chip green with envy.

Some worried that local leaders wouldn’t be able to cope without a guide book.

I’m delighted that you’re proving the doubters wrong.

We’ve seen high ambition and real creative thought.

The Black Country showing opportunities to invest.

Coventry and Warwickshire are working with banks to help small firms access finance.

Enterprise M3 are cutting away the red tape on apprenticeships.

York and North Yorkshire are developing an accreditation for young entrepreneurs - boosting their skills, and giving banks greater confidence to lend.

New Anglia are sowing the seeds of green industries.

Cumbria are working to spread high-speed broadband to rural areas.

And Sheffield have brought together all the local planning authorities to agree a customer-friendly service and a timely process for planning applications.

You also heard also from the West of England, Cumbria and Cheshire in Warrington this morning. And there is much more - partnerships are off to a flying start.

The other week a Spectator editorial argued that “the West emerged as the world’s centre of power because it had hundreds of small countries competing with each other.”

To put it simply; I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little sibling rivalry.

The element of competition can spark new ideas. Motivate everyone to work a bit harder. And help different places learn from each other, adapting the best ideas from other places while pioneering their own. I’m pleased that this work has already started between you today. Have no shame - steal some of the best ideas from others in the room.

Partnerships have also of course played an essential role in preparing bids for Enterprise Zones.

We’ve been absolutely clear that these Zones must foster new investment and jobs - not merely displace them.

Go where there is real potential for growth in the future - not simply because it’s a tad sluggish today.

So, do you focus on the dog-eared retail park - or focus on something like the promising science centre?

The business view has been critical in helping make these very tough decisions.

Today, the Government is ready to help all those places who made successful bids bring their Enterprise Zones to life.

But those of you who missed out should keep aiming high.

In many cases there will be elements that can be put in place without the need for a zone.

So if the plans for the zone were based on simplifying local planning rules - do it. You have the powers to do so.

If it was about drawing in foreign investment - well just reach out.

Looking ahead, Government is ready to work with every area to help create jobs and drive growth.

I know that many of you have started this work already and have designated Enterprise Areas and Growth Zones. I have already seen a number of chairmen of partnerships, ready, willing and able to do just that.

This first year has been a year of setting goals and defining ambitions.

The next year has to be more and more about turning ambition into results.

In a year’s time, let’s see entrepreneurs leaving banks with cash in their pockets. Green industries drawing down seed funding. Local firms getting planning decisions in good time, every time.

And everyone, everywhere, should be ambitious about where they go from here.

I know that you’re already thinking about what more you can do.

Some are focussing on strategic planning - joining forces to finance the new infrastructure, roads and rail that will lay the foundations for growth.

Some are focussing on attracting investment for the long term.

Others want to develop the new skills that will be needed for the hi-tech and green industries of the future.

In many cases, partnerships will get on and put those plans in train.

But there should be no doubt:

Whatever is in their power to do, they should go ahead and do it.

Don’t wait for permission.

In other cases partnerships will need Government to do things differently if they are to achieve their ambitions.

They may want greater control over budgets.

Greater flexibility about regulation.

Whatever their request - Government is ready to listen.

There is no limit to what partnerships might want to propose but their own imagination and ambition.

Nothing is off the table. I believe Greg Clark said something similar this morning.

I cannot guarantee that Government will always give partnerships what they want.

But you have my word that we will give every reasonable proposal proper consideration and a timely answer.

And as we shape new policy, I want to make sure that we’re giving local leaders headroom and flexibility to take more decisions.

In our proposals for repatriating business rates, we are leaving the door open for councils and partnerships to work together - they might want to share the benefits of growth, smooth out peaks and troughs between different areas.

And our proposal for a streamlined planning policy reaffirms that councils must play a key role in shaping the future of their communities - not just waiting for growth to happen, but seeking out opportunities for responsible, sustainable development.

On planning, by the way, if you have a view on our proposals - and it might not have escaped your attention that there’s been considerable interest in our reforms - you have until October to comment.

Don’t leave it to others to comment. It has been a remarkable journey - without shifting an apostrophe or changing a word, this has changed overnight from being seen as a NIMBY’s charter to the spawn of the devil without even a dignified mid-point.

Let me be clear - planning is the single biggest drag anchor on growth and we must deliver reform.

In many senses, what happens next is in your hands.

It’s up to local leaders to decide what they want to make of their new freedoms.

The extent to which they use them is a test of their readiness to lead.

Your expertise, your appetite for growth, and your ambition to create jobs and to draw investment, are what makes the difference.

I found the rapid way that local enterprise partnerships have grown has genuinely surprised me. We have talked for some time about working with businesses. Now we are going beyond consulting and giving business a seat at the table.

At such a critical time, you can play a key role in making a difference for your neighbours, friends, children, grandchildren. You have a rare opportunity here. Don’t look over your shoulder - just get on with what you are doing.

Published 15 September 2011