Congratulations to David Frost, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, who has agreed to chair a new local network for local enterprise partnerships.
Mr Frost, who happens to live in Sutton Coldfield, is to head a network allowing business leaders “to share ideas, solve problems and get the latest data they need to promote economic growth across the country”, according to a statement issued by the Government.
But not everyone is pleased.
The Institute of Directors has condemned the announcement, calling the body a quango and a lobbying group. They also complain that it will cost £300,000.
Whatever else it objects to, the Institute of Directors seems upset partly because the head of a different business organisation has been placed in charge.
The Federation of Small Businesses has a similar complaint.
Chairman John Walker (no relation) said: “Simply picking a single business organisation to run it in this way risks isolating both those businesses which are not a member of any membership body and those who are members of the groups that haven’t been included from LEPs.”
While the Government can hardly be blamed for these somewhat churlish responses, it does seem to fit a pattern that has emerged in industrial policy.
The regional growth fund is so massively oversubscribed – with bids for £2.78 billion in the first round, when only £300 million is available – that hundreds of firms will be disappointed.
It seems that assets owned by regional development agencies, including prime sites such as Pebble Mill in Birmingham, are to be sold off despite the pleas of local authorities. Councils will be told they have to pay market rates for them if they want them.
And parts of the country are still without an LEP, as local business leaders and councillors squabble over the boundaries.
In other words, things are pretty chaotic. But Ministers have introduced measures that should help industry – such as a national insurance holiday for new businesses in the regions and measures, including raising the income tax threshold, to ensure work pays more than claiming benefits.
I’m sure that most Tories, when in opposition, imagined themselves doing a bit more of this. There’s nothing wrong with creating a network but let it be the last quango the Department for Business sets up for a while.