Going for growth

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THE growing suspicion that George Osborne is spending too much time advising David Cameron, and at the expense of his duties as Chancellor, is illustrated by the latest announcement on the much-vaunted Regional Growth Fund.

The provision of a further £1bn to kickstart regeneration schemes was a headline measure in Mr Osborne’s Autumn Statement at the end of November. He wanted to show that the coalition was on the side of hard-pressed Northern regions.

Yet it has taken two months for the Government to confirm the latest criteria – and it will then take considerably longer for bids to be submitted, and then Whitehall officials to submit them to “due diligence”. An already convoluted process will become complicated, still further, by any further Regional Growth Fund measures that Mr Osborne may announce in next month’s Budget to offset tax rises and so forth.

The problem is that policy-makers – and particularly Chancellors of the Exchequer – are rarely straight-forward on the timeframe governing their statements.

However, attention to detail is critical. Such obfuscation, symptomatic of New Labour, is only likely to engender even greater apathy among the growing number of young people cast adrift from education, employment or training opportunities. They will become demoralised – and an even greater burden to the State in the long-term – as the number of so-called NEETs reaches a record level in Yorkshire.

Given this, and the eurozone uncertainty, it is surprising – and disappointing – that Mr Osborne finds himself portrayed by some as “a part-time Chancellor”. It is constructive criticism that he should take on board as Britain, and Yorkshire in particular, faces up to another challenging year.