Business ministers challenge for economic growth

Business minister Michael Fallon has challenged the New Anglia local enterprise partnership to 'step up the pace' on economic growth in the East of England.

Local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) are groups of council and business leaders set up to drive growth after ministers abolished regional development agencies.

Speaking to a committee of MPs in Westminster, Mr Fallon explained that ministers had provided cash to New Anglia and other LEPs and were 'impatient for growth' in return.

The minister, who will attend the New Anglia conference in Ipswich on Monday, said: 'I think my aim has been to sharpen the focus and to accelerate the pace.

'I met the LEP chairmen and indicated to them I want to see a significant step up in pace. I've responded to their request for core funding.'

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Last month Mr Fallon said he would provide �125,000 for each LEP this year and a further �250,000 in 'match funding' in each of the following two years.

Mr Fallon added yesterday: 'I want to be very clear now that the government is impatient for growth, we want to see the economy growing more rapidly, particularly locally, particularly outside London and the South East. And that's why I want them to step up the pace and get on with this now.'

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He went on: 'I want all [LEPs] to be clear now about what their priorities are for local growth and how they see their way forward.'

Meanwhile Mr Fallon said he expected LEPs to identify barriers to growth, such as poor infrastructure and skills shortages, and tackle them locally.

He said some LEPs had signalled an intent to influence how state money for training is spent, and that this was an area he could see more LEPs getting involved in.

Chair of New Anglia LEP Andy Wood said skills shortages were deep rooted, but that New Anglia was trying to find solutions.

He added: 'It is perfectly understandable that Michael Fallon should want to see more from LEP's. The relatively small amount of core funding is very welcome and will go some way to alleviating the pressure some LEP'S have felt.

'The Network of LEP's up and down the country relies largely upon business people who care about their localities and who are prepared to donate their time to make things happen.

'LEP's are part of the solution to growth and jobs, but we also need initiatives to stimulate greater demand in the economy to ensure the promise of a private sector renaissance is fulfilled.'

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