Government to expand Growth Deals with further £1bn investment in local economies

First wave of Growth Deals in 2014 helped LEP’s to fund projects and businesses which benefited local areas

As part of its long-term plan for “sustained economic growth and a fairer society”, the government is injecting a further £1bn into local economies by expanding its Growth Deals initiative.

The first wave of Growth Deals was announced on July 2014 to fund local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) for projects and businesses that benefit the local area and economy.

The new growth deals are intended to see local authorities, businesses, colleges and universities funded to help train youths, create jobs, build homes and improve transport and broadband networks.

The advantage of devolving the funds from central government is that local businesses and authorities have a better understanding, and more time to focus on what their area really needs to fulfill its economic potential.

Examples of projects the funding will help provide are £4m to expand Bristol’s tech business incubation facility, Engine Shed, and £3.6m and £6m to extend availability of Superfast Broadband in Cumbria and the South West respectively. This is particularly good news following recent research which suggested small rural businesses were struggling to grow because of ineffective broadband.

In other news, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) are challenging manufacturing firms to boost UK innovation in a bid for a share of a £1m investment.

The UK is now second in the global innovation index with innovation seen as a key driver of the country’s productivity growth and economic prosperity. Despite this, a recent assessment of the UK’s science and innovation system has cited planning, recruiting, training, retention, progression and performance management are weak points and barriers to innovation.

The government’s Innovation 2014 report stated that the number of reported skills shortage vacancies rose from 16% to 22% from 2011 to 2013 in and 44% of businesses reported that a lack of skilled workers was delaying the development of new products and services.

In light of these statistics, the government is launching the ‘Skills for Innovation in Manufacturing’ competition to challenge firms to come up with new ways of developing skills and practices to ensure innovation remains a key contributor to economic growth.

On the Growth Deals funding announcement, prime minister David Cameron, said: “Giving local communities the power and the money to unlock growth and development and make the spending decisions that work for them is a key part of our long-term economic plan to secure a brighter future for Britain and ensure a recovery for all.

“That’s what Growth Deals are all about, backing local people and investing in the infrastructure, housing and skills that will drive forward local economies, create more jobs and opportunities for hardworking people and supercharge all parts of our country”.

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