Plans to put Birmingham at the heart of sweeping changes to local government have been unveiled.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine visited the city on Thursday to unveil the Greater Birmingham Project – a pilot for plans to put communities at the heart of creating growth by giving them direct access to funds – which was revealed in this week’s Post.
In his No Stone Unturned report penned last year, Lord Heseltine identified as much as £60 billion worth of funds that could be given directly to regions through a single pot, rather than spent in Whitehall as they are currently.
Greater Birmingham Local Enterprise Partnership – a collaboration of business and public sector leaders in the region – will oversee a three-month review aimed at implementing the proposals, which are set to kick in in two years time.
Lord Heseltine said: “The idea is ‘we have got some money – you tell us what you are going to do with it’. The scope in my view is unprecedented.”
A project director, Steve Hollis of KPMG, and a steering group has been put in place to work with Lord Heseltine to show the changes could be a success in the region.
The plan is to prove its worth to convince the Government to give significant funds from its the skills, infrastructure, employment support, housing, regeneration and business support budgets directly to LEPs throughout the country to manage locally.
Lord Heseltine said “financial centralism” meant that decisions are made by various government offices – like transport or education – rather for the good of the community it is aimed at.
Speaking about Whitehall meetings, he said: “What never happens is a meeting to discuss Birmingham.
“What other country works like this? There isn’t one. They all work on the great cities’ economies and policies go up from there.
“Here, quite the reverse.”
LEP chairman Andy Street told the launch at KPMG’s Birmingham headquarters: “They are not bringing a blank cheque book or a case full of £5 notes.
“They are bringing a huge challenge to Greater Birmingham – and like any challenge it has got its opportunities.”
Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore said that public sector involvement was key, as economic growth and improvement to the social sphere go hand-in-hand.
He added: “I believe we can make a difference and a difference that the region itself will recognise in a few years time.”