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Growth teams 'cannot be new bureaucracy'

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Lord Heseltine’s Whitehall ‘local growth teams’ should not be allowed to become a new regional government bureaucracy, a new report from the peer has warned.

The follow up to the peer’s ‘No Stone Unturned’ report also calls for the eight core cities to have their own, dedicated growth team instead of the regional approach initially suggested by the former deputy prime minister.

The joint report from Lord Heseltine and the Birmingham & Solihull local enterprise partnership, which has been working to develop the economic adviser’s recommendations, said teams should not only include secondees from Whitehall but also from local authorities, businesses and other key deliverers.

“Core city LEPs are of sufficient scale to each warrant a [local growth team], rather than the cluster approach proposed in ‘No Stone Unturned’,” the Greater Birmingham project report said. “We are clear that this must not now become a new regional government bureaucracy.”

The report calls for the local growth teams to be piloted in Birmingham & Solihull LEP “and other willing core cities as soon as possible” and also suggests such an approach should be extended to wave two city deals as they are agreed.

Mark Rogers, chief executive of Solihull MBC, said the teams should involve senior officials, including director general level personnel from Whitehall departments and agencies and chief executives from councils. The growth teams could also potentially be chaired by local authority chief executives, he suggested.

Mr Rogers said this would not be a “straightforward” secondment model. “We want to create a different, new approach which creates a team accountable to the LEP board,” he said. “The loyalty of each team member is to the LEP, not the organisation they are from.”

The Birmingham project report was published one day before the chancellor formerly responded to recommendations of No Stone Unturned including the creation of a single pot of economic growth funding for local areas.

Lord Heseltine’s follow up report calls for “a substantial and genuine single pot, unfettered by separate departmental caveats and rules”, reflecting concerns that Whitehall departments are resisting the chancellor’s in principle agreement to the creation of a single funding stream.

It also sets out how Birmingham will create a supervisory board of the LEP’s nine council leaders, designed to be something between a joint committee and a combined authority, which will provide political accountability for decisions involving single pot funding.

The report said it “does not replace or challenge the private-sector led GBSLEP board”. It added: “The private-sector led board, backed up by the democratic accountability vested in the nine elected leaders, will have the clear authority to make the decisions and write the cheques that will drive growth”.

Also in the report:

  • Proposal for savings from energy saving schemes to be recycled into local growth projects
  • Criticism of “ridiculous” Employee Ownership Programme rules which does not allow LEP involvement in bids
  • Case study of multiple contacts between local area and Whitehall within a single regeneration project
  • LEP to lead collaborative procurement work across councils in area
  • Work to boost capacity of local chambers of commerce

Read report in full

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