Chancellor George Osborne said the Regional Growth Fund would play a vital part in the Government’s plan to rebalance the economy as he confirmed the successful first round of bids was about to be revealed by Ministers.
At least 56 companies and organisations in the region have bid for funding but many are braced for disappointment because a total of £2.768bn-worth of applications for the £400m available have been submitted from around the country.
Mr Osborne’s plan to set up two low-tax Enterprise Zones in Yorkshire got the backing of David Frost, chairman of the British Chambers of Commerce, yesterday. The zones, to be set up in the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions, will offer business rate discounts, fast-track planning and super-fast broadband in an attempt to stimulate local economies.
“I’ve been pushing for these for the last few years,” said Mr Frost in his address to the organisation’s annual conference. “Learning the lessons from the past, I believe they will work and it’s hugely encouraging to see the interest from around the country in establishing these.”
Mr Frost also stressed the importance of investment in transport infrastructure, throwing the organisation’s weight firmly behind the Government’s plan to build a high-speed rail network – dubbed High-Speed Two – linking London, Birmingham, South Yorkshire, Leeds and Manchester.
“We have to build High-Speed Two,” said Mr Frost. “It’s not about shaving 20 minutes off your journey between London and Birmingham, it’s about connecting the North to the South, breaking down the North-South divide, opening up areas of the North.”
Business Secretary Vince Cable also promised an assault on red tape as he unveiled a website where members of the public will be urged to choose pointless regulations which they want scrapped.