Suffolk: Local government structure needs transforming, says report by Lord Heseltine

AN OFFICIAL report today recommends a massive transformation of the way government fires economic growth - including the abolition of district councils.

No Stone Unturned, commissioned by David Cameron and written by Tory grandee Michael Heseltine, calls for deep change to local and national government structure and the way it interacts with private business.

It recommends that:

• �60bn be stripped from Whitehall departments and handed to business-led body's like Suffolk's New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

• the two tier council system be abolished, with unitary authorities taking control.

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• every school should have local business people on its governing board.

Speaking to the East Anglian Daily Times yesterday, Lord Heseltine said Ipswich and the surrounding region was once vital to British might and it was time it was again.

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He explained: 'The argument which over decades has led to the present centralism goes very simply 'they are not good enough, they can't be trusted, we can do it better, let's have a quango'.

'It's happened under all governments, its happened over decades and you now have an economy in this country unlike any other in an advanced capitalist economy; on a functional and on a monopolistic basis in the capital city.

'The object of the report is to recreate and strengthen the partnership of local government and the private sector so that the policies are designed where they matter.'

Earlier this week the EADT revealed how Ipswich was planning on striking a 'city deal' which would see the government pass them significant powers and budgets from Westminster - but Mr Heseltine said his plans went much further.

He wants to strip all Whitehall departments of the cash they use for nurturing economic growth and put it, along with all the UK's EU funding, into a central pot amounting to some �60bn.

Each local enterprise partnerships (LEP), a grouping of business and council leaders in every area of the country, would then be given an additional �500,000 between 2013 and 2015 to draw up a detailed plan to boost growth locally and would bid for cash from the pot to implement it.

LEPs would be supported by a dedicated group of civil servants and chambers of commerce would be given statutory powers underneath the LEPs to implement the plan.

Lord Heseltine's proposals would depend a rationalisation of local government, with district councils replaced by unitary authorities to save money and make it easier for the private sector to deal with.

Lord Heseltine's report said: 'Changing to a unitary model of local government will not be easy. It will naturally be uncomfortable for those involved, it may be disruptive in the short term and it will take time.

'But it would be a mistake not to persevere. The costs of the two tier system are simply unsustainable.'

He also said groups of areas, like Norfolk and Suffolk, might choose to have a single mayor representing them.

While specific growth boosting policies would be formed and driven locally by LEPs, central government would guide country-wide goals through a National Growth Council.

Meanwhile businesses would be pushed into schools like never before, with firms involved in the school curriculum and at least two business professionals sitting on every school governing board.

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