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Watchdog to judge local growth policies

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The success of government’s policies for local economic growth are to be assessed by the National Audit Office, it has been announced.

The watchdog is to investigate whether the government is achieving its objectives and will look at progress at the local level as ministers consider a major review of their approach.

According to the NAO the study “explores whether government policy on local economic growth is being implemented in a way which is likely to achieve its objectives and deliver value for money.

“The study will focus on the strategic issues and potential risks to value for money in the implementation of local economic growth, whilst also looking at progress to date at the local level.”

The aim is to publish the report in July, before parliament’s summer recess, at a time when the government is expected to have made further progress in the creation of a single pot of economic growth funding recommended as recommended by Lord Heseltine.

His report ‘No Stone Unturned’ called for £48bn of central government funding in areas such as housing, transport, skills and employment support to be placed in a single pot and distributed to local enterprise partnerships via a process of competitive bids.

Concerns have been expressed about the success of some of the government’s local economic growth policies, such as tax increment financing which is viewed as not having enabled as much infrastructure investment has hoped.

Similarly critics have suggested that past attempts to boost house building, such as New Homes Bonus, have not produced as many new houses as hoped. An NAO report into the bonus scheme is due to be published last month and auditors have been presented with evidence that councils have received funding for houses that were already planned rather than incentivised to build additional homes - see this week’s LGC for more details.

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