No new cash but Norfolk and Suffolk gets two key roles from government

Norfolk and Suffolk's New Anglia local enterprise partnership given a seat at the top table of two government initiatives in an autumn statement which nevertheless left the area empty-handed when it came to immediate funding for major infrastructure projects.

Despite a speech declaring that 'great cities are at the heart of our regional economies' there was no significant extra funding for the area, which had previously secured funds for A11 dualling, and the Norwich Research Park.

However chancellor George Osborne did confirm that the government planned to make immediate improvements to the A14 and beyond East Anglia's borders, there was a commitment to build a new railway link between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Bedford that would create an estimated 12,000 new jobs and bring a step closer a longheld dream for an East-West rail link which could connect Norfolk to the West country without the need to travel through London.

The chancellor also pledged a further �1bn top up of the regional growth fund over the course of the parliament, promised to bring superfast broadband to 90pc of homes and businessiness across the country.

He also announced the creation of two new enterprise zones in Humber and Lancashire plus 100pc capital allowances for manufacturing firms in four existing zones in the North including Liverpool and Sheffield.

But while there was no such offer to help the Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft enterprise zone the government named the area as one of five national centres for Offshore Renewable Engineering (CORE).

The five COREs will be promoted by the Government as the prime locations for offshore renewable engineering businesses, with a comprehensive package of support on offer.

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Supporters also hope that the CORE status will place the spotlight on the two towns and enhance their ability to attract thousands of new jobs to Norfolk and Suffolk, within the enterprise zone sites and further afield, and reinforce the area's position as a key location for the energy sector.

Steve Ames, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said: 'This designation is welcome recognition of the skills, expertise and track record Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft have built up in support of the energy sector. Becoming a Centre for Offshore Renewable Engineering will add to our reputation in the renewables sector.'

New Anglia will also play a key role in government measures to help medium sized businesses after the government announced it would be part of a 'pathfinder' project working with civil servants and the CBI to look at ways of helping medium sized firms grow.

Measures being considered include improved support for exporting, developing better links with local business schools and a national campaign to raise the profile of mid-sized companies.

Andy Wood, chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, and chief executive of a mid-sized business, Adnams, said mid-sized firms were crucial to the Norfolk and Suffolk economy.

'Suffolk and Norfolk have a significant number of successful medium-sized businesses,' Dr Wood said. 'These businesses employ thousands of people. They are locally owned and managed and therefore tend to have deeper roots in their local area. New Anglia's priority has always been to create more private sector jobs. Medium sized businesses have a crucial role in helping us realise that goal.'

Terry Gould, a partner at Mills & Reeve law firm in Norwich, said: 'Despite the gnashing of teeth and general feeling of doom and gloom following the chancellor's autumn statement, there are a couple of crumbs of comfort for Norfolk businesses,' said

'Firstly, you've got the extra �1bn allocated to the Regional Growth Fund, much of which will hopefully be invested in high-tech industries based in this region. This is in addition to the launch of a �1 billion Business Finance Partnership, aimed at investing in funds that lend directly into SMEs, one of the mainstays of our economy.

'Secondly, there's the National Infrastructure Plan, which has identified over 500 projects to be built over the next decade. Many of these, such as the widening of the A11 between Barton Mills and Thetford, as well as improvements to the A14, should help to literally get businesses moving in our region.'

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