December 8 2013 Latest news:
Friday, September 13, 2013
The prime minister has offered his assurance that the government is “on the case” when it comes to making long-awaited upgrades to the A47.
Entrepreneurs are to be offered financial backing worth £69m from the government, under a scheme which prime minister David Cameron believes will help create tens of thousands of new businesses.
The cash will extend until 2014 the New Enterprise Allowance scheme of business mentoring and funding for jobless people who want to start up a company.
And start-up loans totalling £34m will be offered to support an estimated 7,600 businesses, with specific help for former members of the armed forces.
Downing Street said that the New Enterprise Allowance has already helped create more than 26,000 businesses since its introduction in 2011, while nearly 8,000 new companies have been helped by start-up loans.
Mr Cameron met entrepreneurs who benefited from
the scheme yesterday, including Suffolk start-up Bob & John Knitwear from Lowestoft (see left), and BMX bike parts provider Motion BMX from Norfolk.
He said the new pot of money would create genuine business that would grow and create jobs.
“One of the qualifications for a Start-up Loan is that they all have to submit a serious business plan,” Mr Cameron said.
“But don’t forget that there was a time when Skype was just a typo, Google was what babies said, and Amazon was just a rainforest. I am a strong believer in sectors like manufacturing and engineering, but we have got to look at areas like the digital economy as well.”
David Cameron pointed to the transport minister’s scheduled visit to the road on Monday, and a study to investigate where investments in the A47 could be made, as clear indicators that the government is not ignoring the region-wide calls for improvement.
It comes as transport minister Stephen Hammond, pictured below, was questioned in the House of Commons by Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman yesterday on what opportunity there might be to access funding and start upgrading the A47 in the next few years.
While he would not be drawn on a timescale, the MP said the government had announced it would undertake a feasibility study into the road, which would identify ways to improve performance and support economic growth in East Anglia.
He said the policy of developing “route-based strategies” would provide much smarter investment planning for the road network – and he was sure his visit next week would be successful.
His optimism is likely to buoy steering group the A47 Alliance, which is meeting in Peterborough today to prepare for Mr Hammond’s visit, in which he plans to travel along the A47 and meet local policy makers, stakeholders and MPs.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Cameron said the government had already delivered on its promises to improve the A11, where the previous Labour government had failed.
He said: “The A47 features in the feasibility study announced in the spending review and the transport minister Stephen Hammond is heading up to Norfolk on Monday, which together show that we are totally on the case when it comes to the A47.
“The county was banging the drum for a long time about the A11, which was ignored by the previous government, and we have gone and got it done.”
“East Anglia is one of the better performing regions for business in the country,” he added.
“There is plenty of industrial strength there when you look at the agricultural businesses and the pharmaceutical firms around Norwich and Cambridge.
“But we do need to make sure that we get the broadband right, and the road and rail links as well.”
The A47 Alliance carried out work to put the case to the government for targeted improvements amid claims that it would help to create 10,000 new jobs and secure an annual economic boost of £390m.
It has been led by Norfolk County Council and membership includes MPs and MEPs, county, city and district councils, Local Enterprise Partnerships, business representatives and road user groups.
But their hopes appeared to be dealt a blow back in June when it was left out of the government’s spending blueprint for 2015 to 2020, only for the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin to later state that the A47 was “strategically very important”.
It led to the announcement last month that work on the A47 Route Based Strategy would be complemented by an accelerated A47 feasibility study.
Mr Hammond’s visit on Monday will be an opportunity for him to see at first hand the measures that might be fast-tracked towards an early funding commitment for the 2015-2021 spending period.
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis has hailed the town’s growing significance as an energy hub after the arrival of a new offshore business bringing the promise of 100 jobs over the next three years.