Go for growth, jobs will follow

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Business leaders from the Sheffield City Region have called on the Government to focus funding on long term business growth rather than short term job creation and allow Local Enterprise Partnerships to have the final say on where cash should go.

The calls were made at a packed Business Leaders’ Forum meeting in the Cutlers’ Hall, organised by the LEP and attended by Business Minister Mark Prisk and Sir Ian Wrigglesworth, deputy chairman of the Government’s Regional Growth Fund Advisory Panel.

LEP chairman James Newman voiced the views of a number of local business leaders when he told Mr Prisk and Sir Ian: “The Regional Growth Fund is too focused on jobs and not focused enough on growth.”

Mr Newman was echoing the views of Master Cutler Bill Speirs, who criticised Regional Growth Fund chairman Lord Heseltine for “wanting jobs now,” when manufacturing required long term investment to grow, which would lead to jobs being created in the future.

Prof Speirs also questioned the Regional Growth Fund’s aim of creating private sector jobs that could be filled by people losing public sector jobs.

Sheffield Hallam University vice chancellor and LEP board member Philip Jones called for the LEP to be given the funds or the power to approve local applications for money from the Regional Growth Fund.

“If you really believe in localism, don’t make it national; perhaps create a process where bids come to the LEP and the LEP makes a decision,” said Prof Jones.

Business Minister Mark Prisk highlighted the Sheffield City Region’s successes in winning funding to improve transport links that will turn Robin Hood Airport into a gateway to the region and also in getting backing for an Enterprise Zone that would rasie income for the LEP in addition to creating wealth and jobs.

Mr Prisk unveiled three new initiatives to aid LEPs and local economic growth.

He said the Government was “moving up a gear in promoting local growth,” adding: “The package of support opportunities I’ve announced today will help partnerships to translate their ideas and ambition into real action to help businesses in their areas and to unlock growth.”

The Government is setting up a £5 million fund to provide operational support for LEPs and providing additional funding so that LEPs can pay for research into the local economy and develop initiatives that would encourage its growth.

It is also setting up a Local Enterprise Toolbox to give LEPs an easy way to work with civil servants spearheading economic development activity across government departments.