Birmingham bidding for the economic growth jackpot

 
Lord Heseltine Lord Heseltine's report No Stone Unturned has been seen by some as criticism of George Osborne

It's not just Labour which says George Osborne has no strategy for growth. Could Birmingham be about to show him how to deliver one?

With the UK braced for a threatened 'triple dip' recession and in danger of losing its cherished AAA credit rating, the boss of British Airways Willie Walsh has now added his voice to the criticisms of the chancellor.

He says quite simply: "I do not see an agenda for growth in this country."

Even the Conservative former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine was forced to deny his 228-page report No Stone Unturned, unveiled in Birmingham six weeks ago, amounted to an attack on Mr Osborne.

But mingling with his audience of business, political and trade union leaders in Birmingham Town Hall, I found many of them thought there was no other way of interpreting his call for dozens of government initiatives to be scrapped.

He recommended the savings of £49bn should then be merged into a regeneration fund. Local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) would then be encouraged to bid for a share of it.

New localist agenda

Sitting at Lord Heseltine's side on the stage that day was the chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, Andy Street, also managing director of John Lewis.

Like a determined shopper, elbows out, at the Boxing Day sales, Mr Street seized his chance to get to the front of the queue.

He secured the agreement of his colleagues on the LEP to write to the prime minister suggesting Birmingham could pilot Lord Heseltine's new localist agenda, in partnership with the region's public and private sectors.

His letter represents the start of what one LEP insider describes as "the necessary choreography". The next step is Mr Cameron's reply which they hope will promise a generous share of Lord Heseltine's proposed pot worth several billion pounds, they hope!

Then it would be up to local leaders from the chambers of commerce, councils and public and private sector partners to decide where to invest in the local ventures which they, rather than Whitehall, see likeliest to create jobs and regenerate communities.

Our business correspondent Peter Plisner will be asking if Birmingham is about to claim this economic jackpot in the Sunday Politics Midlands from 11:00 GMT on Sunday, 16 December 2012 on BBC One.

I will be joined in the studio by Lord Digby Jones of Birmingham, the former trade minister and director general of the CBI, and Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston.

 
Patrick Burns Article written by Patrick Burns Patrick Burns Political editor, Midlands

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