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East Midlands Chamber News

Chamber reaction to Lord Heseltine's 'Empowering English Cities' report

Reacting to Lord Heseltine’s report ‘Empowering English Cities’, published this morning, Scott Knowles, Chief Executive at East Midlands Chamber*, said: “Lord Heseltine is right to draw attention back to the devolution agenda, which appears to have stalled in Westminster and locally. In principle, we support what Lord Heseltine is saying.


“The centralisation of power, money and decision-making continues to act as a brake on the growth of towns, cities and counties the length and breadth of the country that are keen to make more of their potential.


“The East Midlands continues to be one of the biggest contributors to the UK economy, the manufacturing spine of the country, a significant creator of jobs and wealth, and yet, like many other parts of England, we have virtually no control over our own destiny. We also have unique issues, such as three highly successful but distinctly different cities close together with diverse needs and objectives, which means a one-size-fits-all devolution solution simply won’t work.


“The Chamber supports thriving communities by supporting businesses, and businesses across the country generally support greater devolution so long as it makes things simpler, faster and clearer and delivers positive results.


“We are working to close the skills gap between business and academia, to improve academic output to ensure rising generations have the skills businesses need. Achieving that goal will reduce the need to source absent skills from overseas or poach staff from firms that invest in training, which is something Lord Heseltine specifically mentions in his report.


“His suggestion that devolved Combined Authorities should have the ability to set local taxes could be hugely beneficial in making the East Midlands more attractive to businesses, which will create more jobs and wealth. But we would not want to see motorists, for example, financially punished to compensate for revenues lost to lower Business Rates.


“As with most reports of this kind, the devil will be in the detail of delivery. Businesses want devolution with purpose – as Lord Heseltine puts it, ‘to create wealth and improve living standards’. But to achieve the Chamber’s goal to help create ‘thriving communities’, business must be at the very heart of all big decisions affecting the place they call home - real participation and accountability, not tick-box consultation.”