'Inspirational'report Reveals Vital Role of Localism as Economic Debate Begins

Article excerpt


Will the Heseltine Report really cause the (economic) world to change? Reading Lord Heseltine's report, No Stone Un-n turned, in pursuit of Growth which was h formally launched at Birmingham Town Hall, was inspirational. It contains some sweeping and wide ranging recommenda-a tions. Whether they all come to fruition is debatable. However, what is certain is this report represents a significant contribution to the debate about where we stand in the world economic order of things and, more significantly, whether the changes that Heseltine asserts are necessary to achieve growth will be implemented.

At some 235 pages, it is certainly not short. However, the fact the launch took place in Birmingham was no coincidence. The second page contains a picture of the politician most widely associated with the city; the remarkable Joseph Chamberlain.

Indeed, there is a quotation from him which states that unless he could achieve for the nation "results similar to those which have followed the adoption of my policy in Birmingham... it will have been a sorry exchange to give up the town council for the cabinet".

Clearly, this demonstrates a belief that this report is utterly imbued with a belief in the importance of localism and that the skills, ability and enthusiasm of those closest to where things really happen is absolutely essential to growth in regions outside London.

Lord Heseltine This is a very personal report in which Lord Heseltine makes clear he believes change is both essential and possible. While very few will disagree with the former, there will be intense argument among those who commissioned it, the government, most particularly the Prime Minister David Cameron, about whether the latter can realistically be achieved through agreeing to the 89 recommendations that are made. Lord Heseltine, we know from his time as a minister in the Thatcher government, is someone with the ability to think outside of "the establishment" and to say what really needs to be done.

In trying to summarise what is a significant document, there is bound to be some generalisation and blurring of what it contains.

Nonetheless, a good flavour is evident from the contents, which as well as including his vision that makes clear his belief in a "shared responsibility for creat-t ing wealth", strenuously argues for localism that will reverse a "century of centralisation" and will support the enterprise through enhanced political and administrative systems.

Undoubtedly, Heseltine's report will at-t tract headlines because of focus on the fact that he advocates a smaller "more highly skilled" central government "machine". …