I read in yesterday’s papers that the Uk government will soon receive advice from Lord Heseltine on how to promote growth. Advice from anyone with ideas on how to do that is welcome. Lord Heseltine himself was a successful businessman in the magazine industry for many years and knows how to grow a small business well.
Let’s hope his advice will concentrate on the tax, banking and regulatory obstacles to growing small and medium sized enterprises. What we do not need is an agenda to recreate the regional government the Coalition has rightly just demolished, nor to turn the Local Enterprise Partnerships into the RDAs which have also bit the dust. Some of the articles imply the report he proposes wishes to put the clock back and spend yet more money on needless layers of regional government.
Regions which depended on regional development strategies and RDA schemes remained poorer and less successful than regions which did not. Indeed, during the high period of Labour’s support through conventional regional subsidies, the out performance of London and the South-east grew rather than diminished.
The last thing this Uk economy needs is yet more bureaucracy and government administrative costs. The RDAs often ossified the private sector land and buildings markets, leaving investors with less choice and flexibility than the open market approach in the most successful areas through private sector competing agents and landlords.
Lord Heseltine also favours unitary local government to replace Counties and Districts. I have no problem with that,as Berkshire opted to carry out that change 20 years ago. I do think, however, it has to be done at the request of the local area to ensure smooth passage . Unhappy Councils and Councillors can make such a transition expensive and problematic.
He also favours elected Mayors. These have been offered in various parts of the country, but have not proved popular with electors. Reforming local government may be worth doing for its own sake, but will not of itself transform the UK’s growth prospects. That requires lower taxes, more sensible regulations, and easier access to bank credit and risk capital. More demand also helps.