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Lord Heseltine urges West to seize power from London

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 08, 2013

Lord Heseltine

Comments (26)

Lord Heseltine has challenged the Westcountry to lose its deference towards London if it wants to see power devolved away from the capital to the regions.

The Tory grandee, and former MP of Tavistock in West Devon, was speaking on a visit to Cornwall yesterday, where he urged the South West to take control of its own destiny by raising its game and showing Whitehall that the region could drive forward its own growth agenda.

He said that he had sometimes observed a deference to the capital on visits to the regions, which he said was helping to maintain the UK's London-centric status quo.

"When you talk to officials in London about devolving power, behind closed doors they will say 'they are not up to it'. That's why, over decades, they have taken power away from you," added Lord Heseltine.

The former deputy Prime Minister said that the South West should not sit back and wait for change but should, instead, seize the initiative, warning that "there are ministers who have got budgets who want devolution like a hole in the head".

But with the recession having forced Government to re-evaluate the country's competitiveness in the face of challenging global trading conditions, the veteran politician said the UK was now at "a pivotal moment" when power could shift away from London.

Lord Heseltine added: "If you want power and choice you have to put forward a plan and that plan is not about business as it is, it's about doing things differently and better."

Speaking during a visit that included the Pendennis Shipyard, Falmouth University's Academy for Innovation and Research and the Tremough Innovation Centre, Lord Heseltine said that the UK lags behind the US and Germany when it comes to productivity and languishes in 21st place in international education league tables.

Lord Heseltine has long believed that devolving power and resources to the regions is key to redressing this balance to make the UK more competitive.

Last year he was tasked by the Prime Minister to look at how the UK could achieve more growth, with the resulting report, No Stone Unturned, making 89 recommendations to help industry, including shifting power away from London. Government accepted 81 of these and has freed up £20 billion of funding for the regions, which will be spent by local decision-makers, rather than central government or quangos.

The self-made millionaire, who founded the publishing business Haymarket, began his speech at Truro College by describing himself as "a small businessman", saying: "If you have started a small business the loneliness, the bank refusals, the competitiveness, the mistakes are never forgotten."

Warning that his message was "not comfortable, not easy, not what people want to hear" Lord Heseltine urged the Westcountry's private sector to step up to the plate in order to get things done.

He said that the UK's business community consisted of "warring tribes" that resulted in a lack of strong government support for companies, saying that Germany, America and Japan all had more effective structures in place.

"The major challenge for the private sector is to realise that it is not enough to allow this vacuum of service provision to support small and medium-sized companies," he said.

He added: "We need the private sector to recognise that if it wants to be heard, it has to shout."

Lord Heseltine said he was particularly concerned about 'sink schools' where levels of achievement are low, saying that headteachers of such failing schools should be replaced.

He also urged the business community to get involved with local schools as governors, to ensure youngsters are aware of job opportunities in their communities.

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership is currently negotiating with government about a Growth Deal that will run from 2015 to 2020, which will include a bid for funding from Whitehall in addition to the next generation of European funding.

Chairman Chris Pomfret said: "Cornwall needs [investment] and it will be up to us to argue that robustly."

Lord Heseltine urged him to "be as rough as I would want you to be" when it came to these negotiations.

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  • Charlespk  |  November 10 2013, 8:24PM

    We all have differing abilities. . We can never all be equal. Do you really believe you are the 'equal' of a Heart Surgeon, an FI driver or even David Beckham?? Socialism and politically correct thinking has crippled your judgement in my view. What you are talking about is Christian values and how we treat our fellow man. Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor; rich man poor man beggar man thief. That's just the way of the world.

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  • elleyc  |  November 10 2013, 7:46PM

    Charlespk Balance equals stability. The role of government should be to be aware of and retain control of those forces which would create imbalance and therefore instability within society. This is what I mean by balance. All people are equal but a society without balance creates divisions between people by putting an arbitrary value on someones worth. Some are more equal than others. It is dependent on whatever the core belief system or world view happens to be at any given time. I would suggest that Nature tends towards balance and therefore stability which it has maintained, more or less, over millions of years otherwise there would be no life on this planet. Perhaps Nature's present tendency towards extremes is indicative of uncontrolled, disruptive forces at work on our planet? I did not mean the EU which is merely a distraction and equally driven by the same forces that control our own governments.

  • Charlespk  |  November 10 2013, 4:53PM

    Our national strength is in our unity. I feel your idea of 'balance' is equality. That's where we disagree. . Unfortunately we can never and will never, all be equal. That just goes against nature. And I'm not sure a dictatorship is actually the result of bad government; more weak government. Strong leaders just take control rather like a Mafia. . It's then more about good and evil. You are right though. . We have already 'devolved' power to the new European Soviet, The EU. It's been classic 'take over', with all trappings of some of the worst dictatorships. People won't know what they've lost until it's been completely taken from them. http://tinyurl.com/c3ce8c2 (open in a new window)

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  • elleyc  |  November 10 2013, 3:22PM

    Charlespk On North Korea.. To my mind a democratically elected government's role is to retain a balance within society based on a moral obligation to its electorate (perhaps enshrined in a constitution). To maintain a balance in society, I would suppose that the government needs to control those forces which dictate the economic development and social structure of the country. If it allows an unelected elite made up of financial institutions, muti-nationals etc based on a narrow and morally defunct ideology of free market economics to dictate these forces, then it cannot maintain a balance within society nor can it truly serve the people who elected it. A dictatorship is the consequence of bad government and if the government meets the needs of its people then this would not be a question. However, if the government fails to meet its peoples needs, then it is their right to change that government - within of course the tenets of a fair and moral constitution. Also, the government cannot bring true devolution to the regions because it has already devolved power elsewhere.

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  • Charlespk  |  November 09 2013, 6:29PM

    @dee_2 If you didn't start with your personal comments, I wouldn't have to expose your inadequacies now would I. . You appear to be determined to start an argument with my avatar. . That's 'King David's Reaction'. . . Please learn to debate and comment on the story, not other posters. . I appreciate you recognise his greatness as do I. (and mine :)) ). . It's George Washington. . And I made no mention of benefit claimants. . Get over your 'politics of envy'.

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  • Big_Ger  |  November 09 2013, 10:31AM

    Does anyone here really want the dolts at County Hall to have more power?

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  • dee_2  |  November 08 2013, 8:17PM

    For the record Charles-Rspk I spent the first six years of my working life in West Africa - it was not a safe place to be. So don't make idiotic comments when you haven't a clue about peoples' backgrounds. Why do you assume that because someone disagrees with you they are some sort of benefit claimant?

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  • break  |  November 08 2013, 6:10PM

    How's it taken Heseltine this long to realise this,some of us have known this ages. But it seems like he's blaming Cornwall for the problems its in,that we should raise our game? Isn't that what used to be said to naughty children? Cornwall cannot 'raise its own growth agenda' as he says,because those in Whitehall must always have their own way, if we had a choice in the matter we probably wouldn't be in this predicament. And 'growth agenda' isn't the answer to that usually to make more jobs available,which in Cornwall I believe means to build more house's and business parks,since thats the only growth we ever have down here?

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  • Charlespk  |  November 08 2013, 5:51PM

    So not Real World you mean Doit. All hold hands and eat lentils whilst the rest of the world deals with the real issues. All of us becoming Quakers would offer far more to this planet IMO.

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  • Doitdreckley  |  November 08 2013, 5:37PM

    In fairness Charles I think the suggestion was less North Korea and more Scandinavia.

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