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Clegg positive over plans to devolve power to the regions

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: June 05, 2013

'It will leave this country significantly more devolved by the end of this Parliament'

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The Government will reveal the scale of its commitment to devolving power to the regions at this month's spending review amid doubts over its conviction to the move.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has told MPs the "size and content" of a multi-billion-pound regional jobs-boosting fund – proposed by Lord Michael Heseltine – would be revealed on June 26.

Question marks have hung over the level of Government commitment to ceding power to councils and business-led groups outside London.

Lord Heseltine, who was MP for Tavistock in the 1970s and drew up a plan for regional regeneration, wanted almost £80 billion in the fund.

But Business Secretary Vince Cable recently warned that the "single pot" is not going to happen as billed.

During Deputy Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Clegg said: "We have already announced that we are going to implement the vast majority of the Heseltine recommendations – 81 of the 89.

"That really will be a significant moment, when we break from that long, long tradition, which has prevailed under Governments of all persuasions, of over-centralisation in England.

"In addition to the radical moves – the 'city deals', the LEPs and the devolution of business rates – it will leave this country significantly more devolved by the end of this Parliament than we found it at the beginning of the Parliament."

Lord Heseltine's blueprint for economic growth included the "pot" as its most radical idea. The Tory peer also made clear he believes the business-led LEPs (or local enterprise partnerships) – which include one for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and another for Devon and Somerset – are the best bodies to take control of the extra funding.

But Mr Cable indicated "city deals" would be the conduit through which the money would flow.

The Government is rolling out a series of these schemes, and has already given Manchester, Bristol and other urban centres greater power over transport, training and regeneration.

Plymouth is set to get a "city deal" in the second wave of the scheme, and a "Cornwall deal" is being worked up that could prove to be a template for rural areas. Lord Heseltine has praised "city deals", but made clear a "piecemeal" approach was not enough.

Appearing more enthusiastic than his Liberal Democrat colleague Mr Cable, Mr Clegg said the British economy had to be re-balanced away from the "over-reliance on public sector employment in significant parts of our country".

He went on: "The next step is an announcement on the size and content of the [Heseltine] fund as part of the spending round."

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