Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (April 30th 2013) slammed comments made by Business Secretary Vince Cable that Teesside – and the rest of the North East will have to, in Tom’s words, “whistle in the wind” for previously promised extra cash to boost regeneration and economic growth.
In a speech made in front of journalists, Mr Cable said that organisations like the Tees Valley ‘Local Enterprise Partnership’ (LEP) was simply not capable of handling huge sums of public money, arguing that big decisions must be administered from Whitehall.
Mr Cable also said “There is a genuine concern about local enterprise partnerships. Hardly any of them come up to me and say ‘we would like billions more money to spend’…They are quite small groups… [and only had] five, six, or seven business people on the board” adding: “You can’t hand over large chunks of public money, with limited controls, into that kind of structure.”
“Vince Cable has unilaterally and brutally torn up a report drawn up by Lord Heseltine and endorsed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that proposed that the LEP’s would get a share of the £70 billion proposed by Lord Heseltine and Chancellor George Osborne.
“It is an utter insult to the businesspeople who sit on the local LEPs, people who, in their day-to-day life make multi-million pound decisions in areas like the chemical, logistics and the engineering industries.
“In effect Mr Cable has told Teesside to ‘drop dead’ over pleas for real cash to invest in local industry and the creation of much needed jobs for Teesside’s unemployed. Put simply this is a mess and it is becoming increasingly difficult to know who is calling the shots here – is it the Chancellor or Vince Cable?
“The LEP’s were touted as the Government’s big idea to replace regional development agencies that existed under the previous Labour Government and helped direct spending in the regions. Now we see them downgraded at the whim of one Liberal Democrat Minister. Worse, in his comments he lashed into what he saw as differences between Teesside and the rest of the North East – fuelling and stoking up inter-regional squabbles, diversions which we all need like a hole in the head.
“What is needed is simple common sense from the Government, an endorsement of the spending plans of both the Tees Valley and North East LEP’s and a steer for both to work together more closely – and not the exact opposite.”
“In the final analysis the voters will know who to blame – but that won’t be until 2015.This issue has to be settled now – and settled properly in the interests of jobs and growth for our area.”