Prime minister cautious on Hezza’s budget plan
Lord Heseltine’s plan to strip great chunks out of the Department of Communities and Local Government, and for BIS budgets to form a multi-billion pound pot, is coming up against resistance from a cautious PM amongst others.
George Osborne’s been pushing the central, radical idea from the Hezza report, to let local enterprise partnerships (not heard of them? That’s part of the PM’s worry) bid for billions currently spent centrally, like the Work Programme or EU structural funds.
Some BIS ministers and Eric Pickles have been fighting rearguard actions to defend their budgets, and it looks like the autumn statement will see the chancellor announcing less concrete progress than he’d hoped. Some companies who prefer not to have a LEP intervening on their relationship with central government have chipped in, in opposition.
Expect a possible pilot or two and more money for LEPs (the cheaper, poorer replacements for RDAs bringing councils and local businesses together, now you ask). That will be wrapped in positive (and in George Osborne’s case, heartfelt) ambitious language. Whether the Hezza vision becomes reality will be something we won’t really know about until the next parliament, as even the most ambitious timetable doesn’t see it happening until then.
There will be some money sprayed out in tomorrow’s autumn statement. FE colleges, the science and innovation budget and some infrastructure work. The money’s supposed to come from a further squeeze on Whitehall departments. Some economists reckon there could be a £4bn underspend on current budgets. Presumably that might also be scooped up and redeployed.
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