£2bn local growth fund is already 'heavily oversubscribed' says peer

Lord Heseltine

Lord Heseltine

First published in News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Parliamentary Correspondent

South Hampshire is unlikely to get all the Government cash it has requested for local growth projects, Lord Heseltine has warned.

A £2 billion annual fund – devolving spending from Whitehall to local leaders – is “heavily oversubscribed”, the peer and ministerial adviser revealed.

However, Lord Heseltine said that did not mean proposals would be rejected, but merely “phased” until later years of the five-year programme.

And, ahead of an announcement early next month, he told the Daily Echo: “I can’t reveal what’s coming – but it will be very exciting.”

The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is among 39 LEPs across England that have put in bids for a slice of the £10 billion available, by 2020.

It is pitching for £305m, of which £103.2m is being sought for the first year of the “growth deals”, in 2015-16.

It hopes to boost industries including marine, aerospace, advanced manufacturing and tourism, focusing on key areas including Southampton City Station Quarter and the A27 at Fareham.

The Enterprise M3 LEP, meanwhile – which takes in Winchester, the New Forest and Test Valley – is after £340m over the five-year period.

Lord Heseltine described the process as “unprecedented in English history” – because local leaders in politics, business and education had made their own choices.

And he said: “They have prioritised what they think are the economic levers in the form of projects – the ones that are most significant in generating growth. It’s fair to say they have exceeded our expectations. They are heavily oversubscribed compared to the money that’s available.

“But the money that’s available in 2015-16 – £2 billion – is merely the first year of a long-term programme.”

LEPs could bid for cash to improve transport, further education, skills and infrastructure, after a blueprint devised by Lord Heseltine.

Labour attacked the sums on offer as too small, vowing to double the devolution pot to £4 billion a year.

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