Norfolk and Suffolk’s final plea to government ahead of budget

Business leaders have met with top government ministers to plead the case for investment in Norfolk and Suffolk ahead of next week's budget.

The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) was created to identify the region's economic priorities and promote growth.

As the country prepares itself for a series of tough announcements from the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Wednesday, the group has made a final attempt to ensure this area does not miss out on vital funding.

In a meeting with business secretary Vince Cable, New Anglia LEP's chairmen Peter Barry and Andy Wood focused on the organisation's hopes of securing more private-sector jobs for Norfolk and Suffolk.

In particular, they called on Dr Cable to support the bid from Group Lotus to the regional growth fund (RGF).

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The New Anglia LEP told the business secretary a loan from the RGF would allow Lotus to 'expand and maintain their production at their Hethel site, creating 1,200 new and sustainable, high-value, jobs and safeguarding the existing 1,200 jobs.'

Lotus has warned that it intends to shift production to existing European plants if the bid is turned down.

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Last night Mr Barry said: 'The meeting with Vince Cable was very important. We need to get across to him the significance of Lotus to the local economy and the vital role the regional growth fund bid will play in creating new jobs as well as retaining existing jobs.'

The chairmen also used the meeting with Dr Cable at the LEP national summit on March 7, which was chaired by the prime minister, to highlight the importance of the energy and tourism industries to the area's economy.

Yesterday, a second meeting took place, this time between the New Anglia LEP and culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Representatives of the group continued to press the case for support for tourism as well as the development of a super-fast broadband network.

The LEP believes improved internet speeds would help 'drive forward the area's economy and create jobs.'

Mr Wood said: 'We are using every opportunity to speak with the government about our priorities and the need for support. We are not looking for large handouts but targeted support which we know will deliver private sector jobs now.'

Last night Chris Starkie, joint lead of the New Anglia LEP transition team, said the group had come away from both meetings feeling encouraged.

He said: 'Both Vince Cable and Jeremy Hunt listened intently, took notes and were very responsive. Of course, it's not a situation where they are necessarily going to make an immediate response, but they certainly had an interest in what was said. That's as much as we could expect.

'The right people are listening intently to what we have to say.'

The New Anglia LEP, which was given the green light in December, is one of 27 organisations formed nationally after the government announced it was axing regional development agencies.

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