£2bn cash for regions offer is oversubscribed – but deal is only the beginning

Lord Heseltine

Lord Heseltine - Credit: PA

Lord Heseltine has revealed that the competition to win a slice of a £2bn pot of Whitehall cash to be sent to the regions has been heavily oversubscribed – but said that the announcement due next month would be the start of a plan for the long term.

The former cabinet minister, who was appointed the coalition's economic growth adviser, said that the process – which has seen bids spearheaded by local enterprise partnerships, and backed by local councillors, universities and colleges and business people – was 'unprecedented in English history.'

The former Conservative party deputy prime minister, who has been advising the government on the bids, said: 'It's fair to say they have exceeded our expectations, they are heavily oversubscribed compared to the money that's available.But the money that's available in 2015-16 – £2bn – is merely the first year of a long-term programme.'

Norfolk and Suffolk's local enterprise partnership, New Anglia, has been holding talks with the government and is expected to hear in July if it has been successful.

In 2012 Lord Heseltine urged the government to take bolder action to stimulate the economy in his report No Stone Unturned, in which he said he wanted to devolve power from London to the English regions. Questioned on whether he would like to see the government take more spending decisions away from Whitehall, he said that he believed that what the local enterprise partnerships were doing justified more confidence in the amount of money that was allocated.

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