Nick Clegg on new funding for English regions

Nick Clegg in the East Midlands Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was first elected to the European Parliament 14 years ago

All politicians want to be heard. But they are not necessarily listened to.

That's been a problem for the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

But are there signs that voters are giving the Lib Dem leader the benefit of the doubt.

He was back in the East Midlands, a patch he knows well from his early days as the region's first Liberal Democrat Euro MP 14 years ago.

The deputy prime minister joined production workers at the Toyota car plant at Burnaston, near Derby.

The talk was about getting the Coalition's Regional Growth Fund (RGF) into gear.

'Slow lane'

"It's good news for the East Midlands because it's getting close to £50m in this round," he told me.

This latest round of funding - the fourth - is significant for the East Midlands economy.

Up until now, the Coalition faced criticism from local politicians for leaving the East Midlands in the funding slow lane.

Up to 13 local businesses will share in the pot. Across England, they're some of the 102 companies to benefit from the £506m that's available.

Start Quote

We are in a global race and a global competition”

End Quote Nick Clegg MP Deputy Prime Mionister

Toyota is getting up to £6m. Little wonder management and staff were all smiles for the deputy prime minister and listening to his every word.

"Quite simply, they were good bids. Look, we are in a global race and a global competition," he added.

"We are using the Regional Growth Fund to ensure jobs stay here in Derby and in the East Midlands."

Toyota employs 3,000 staff at Burnaston and will use its RGF cash to help develop new models and upgrade its Auris and Avensis range, of which 80% is exported.

But shouldn't such government cash be going to smaller businesses rather than a large Japanese multi-national?

"We have to be competitive with other car companies and also within Toyota as well," said Tony Walker, UK Deputy Managing Director of Toyota Manufacturing.

"Toyota is a large company and we want to make sure they take the right decisions for people like me and everyone else here in Derbyshire and the UK."

Straw poll

That's a hint that without such government cash support, a multi-national could easily switch production elsewhere in the world.

There's been a cautious welcome to Nick Clegg's RGF announcement. Labour's Jon Ashworth is also listening to the deputy prime minister.

Start Quote

It now looks as though Nick Clegg has got that message”

End Quote Jon Ashworth MP Labour, Leicester South

He's been a critic of earlier funding rounds that put the East Midlands at a big disadvantage with other English regions. He led some heavy-duty political lobbying to get a better deal.

"It's not fair that a region with such a strong manufacturing base lost out in the first three rounds," said the Leicester South MP.

"But it now looks as though Nick Clegg has got that message. We will now have to look at the detail of what's been announced."

Nick Clegg's visit to Toyota ended with a question-and-answer session with the workers. Tuition fees were raised but most of the questions were about the economy. They listened to what he had to say.

Emboldened, he then did a straw poll among the 80 or so staff on having an EU referendum.

The result? Just a handful wanted out. The overwhelming majority wanted the UK to remain a member of the European Union. Nick Clegg was smiling.

Maybe his message is now being heard again. Certainly these workers were listening.

John Hess Article written by John Hess John Hess Political editor, East Midlands

Government face legal challenge on rural homes change

Ministers face a legal challenge from rural councils wanting to ensure more affordable homes.

Read full article


This entry is now closed for comments

Be the first to comment


  • FridgeCool customer

    The village that has just got its first fridge

  • Lincoln Perkins (in the middle of the image) carried Churchill's coffin with seven other menNear miss

    How pallbearers almost dropped Churchill's coffin

  • Josef Mengele in SS uniformThe twins of Auschwitz

    How a Nazi doctor experimented on identical siblings

  • Alok'Red market'

    The desperate patients in India turning to illegal blood donors

  • Bank House, 27 King Street, LeedsIn pictures

    Some of the office buildings new to the National Heritage List

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.