East Anglia can help rebalance ‘London-centric’ UK economy, says Ed Davey

Ed Davey MP at Norwich Enterprise Centre to launch a regional growth fund project to create new jobs

Ed Davey MP at Norwich Enterprise Centre to launch a regional growth fund project to create new jobs.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

East Anglia must continue to play a key role in the government's efforts to rebalance a 'London-centric' UK economy, a cabinet minister has said.

Ed Davey MP at Norwich Enterprise Centre to launch a regional growth fund project to create new jobs

Ed Davey MP at Norwich Enterprise Centre to launch a regional growth fund project to create new jobs.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Regional investment is key to not repeating the 'same mistakes' made when the UK economy was reaping the rewards of the economic boom, according to the secretary of state for energy and climate change, Ed Davey.

The message came as Mr Davey visited Norwich following the announcement today that the government would award the region £8.6m to boost jobs as part of its Regional Growth Fund.

Among those receiving the funding are Norwich-based Nwes, a regional enterprise agency, which has been allocated up to £3m to provide grants to local businesses in order to create 400 new jobs in Norfolk and Suffolk over the next two years.

The Nwes scheme will be focused within the Future50 project set up by the Eastern Daily Press five years ago to help promote and support entrepreneurial business, which has since been extended into Suffolk and supported by the East Anglian Daily Times.

Mr Davey said the government was committed to supporting the initiative in its bid to spread prosperity to the regions, without being over-reliant on the economic power of the capital.

He said: 'We are finding the Regional Growth Fund is making quite a big difference. We want the economy to be balanced and not London centric, and we know that the East Anglian economy is doing pretty well so we want that to continue.

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'When we got the economic recovery going again, it was a recovery that needed to be regionally balanced. The last boom was very London based, and we didn't want to make the same mistakes. We wanted to make sure that we invested in all the regions.'

Mr Davey visited the office of Norwich-based enterprise agency Nwes, on Guildhall Hill, where he met entrepreneurs looking to transform their business plans into fully-fledged firms.

Some of the entrepreneurs, which were looking to create companies in the food, healthcare and digital marketing sectors, were also putting exporting at the heart of their businesses – with one firm looking to manufacture vegetarian cheese and sell it to the Dutch market.

Mr Davey, who was previously a shadow secretary of state for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and a parliament under secretary in the department of business innovation and skills, said he had investigated how to encourage more small businesses to start exporting – and was continuing to push the agenda in Brussels.

Kevin Horne, chief executive of Nwes, said its experience dealing with government funding will allow it to start getting the money to businesses within the next three months.

He said: 'Considering the number of Regional Growth Fund bids that have been announced, the fact that the secretary of state came to Norwich said a lot about the quality of our bid.

'If you look at the businesses we are going to help, there will be about 400 in total, which will have a much greater impact than when the Regional Growth Fund gives money to one company.'

Shaun Lowthorpe, Archant business publishing editor, said: 'We're delighted that the Nwes scheme has passed the first hurdle in securing this conditional award of Regional Growth Fund money. Through our Future50 programme, Archant has supported the ambitions of Norfolk and Suffolk's entrepreneurs, and we are looking forward to working with Nwes as they seek to develop the programme to help create up to 400 jobs.'

Adrian Possener, partner at East Anglia-based solicitors Birketts, which sponsors the Future50, said: 'New business is absolutely essential to the improvement of the economy.

'Kevin Horne and his team have shown great energy in securing this grant, and it can make a huge difference by helping more business start ups to prosper.

Meanwhile, Simon Watson, partner at chartered accountants Lovewell Blake, said the Future50 demonstrated how many businesses had got off the ground with very little funding, and now it was right to support them with their growth ambitions.

Mr Watson, whose firm also sponsors the Future50, said: 'The Regional Growth Fund will give these businesses a little bit of money that will help them achieve their growth. They can get in that extra person and invest in some plant or machinery, which will benefit the local economy.'

• Do you have a business story for the Eastern Daily Press? Contact business editor Ben Woods on 01603 772426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk