by JOSEPH WATTS, Political editor
Friday, June 15, 2012
The chair of the business body tasked by ministers to promote economic growth in Norfolk and Suffolk has challenged the government over plans to cut subsidies for green industries.
Andy Wood is chair of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) but is also the chief executive of brewing giant Adnams.
LEPs were set up across the country by the government two years ago in order to drive private sector growth, meanwhile the New Anglia LEP has also been assigned by ministers as a ‘green economy pathfinder’.
That means the body is now trying to pioneer ways that UK business can take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by the country becoming more environmentally friendly - for example, through the growing renewable energy sector or through work to make businesses more energy efficient.
Such opportunities in their entirety, called the “green economy”, are thought to be worth some £112bn to the UK, with that figure expected to jump by 45pc in the next two years.
But Dr Wood has said reports that the government plans to cut subsidies for green industries could stymie economic growth in East Anglia and across the country.
He told the Eastern Daily Press: “I would like to see continued support for green technologies and consistency in government policy around this issue.
“There has been tremendous interest from the investment community, but in order to have the confidence to invest they need to be reassured that the government is committed to this transition process.”
When the government first came to power David Cameron said that it would be the “greenest government ever”, but with the arrival of the economic downturn the coalition has come under pressure to draw back budget commitments to green projects.
Part of its commitment was to provide subsidies through the Green Deal policy, which would see householders able to access funding to help make homes more energy efficient, by fitting better insulation for example.
But now the government is suggesting it will make changes to the policy so that not as many homes qualify; one consultancy called Europe Economics has suggested such a change could deprive the UK economy of £5bn and the insulation industry of 3,000 jobs.
Meanwhile there are also reports that the government is drawing up plans to cut the £400m a year it has pledged for subsidies to promote investment in new wind farms.
Dr Wood added: “We would like to hear the government say that these subsidies are safe for a period of time; that will give the investment community the opportunity to make the commitment they need to support the development of what is going to be a new economic model.”
Treasury minister and Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said that the government understood the importance of the green economy and backed the LEP’s efforts.
She cited the coalition’s establishment of the Green Investment Bank, which will provide financing to firms investing in green technologies.
The minister said: “It’s a long term piece of work; constructing an appropriate and flexible financing framework.
“There are various decisions in hand at present that will give the industry certainty. It’s right that we seek to give business an understanding of what the public purse can help to do.”