MINISTERS are to hold a summit this spring with leaders of new Local Enterprise Partnerships in a bid to boost economic growth in the regions.
David Cameron promised a "step change" in the approach to regional growth under the coalition as he urged more people to bid for cash from the 1.4bn Regional Growth Fund.
During a visit to the North-West yesterday the Prime Minister backed the new partnerships – coalitions of councils and businesses which are replacing regional development agencies – to spearhead a regional revival and also put his faith in powerful city mayors being installed with "clout and passion to make change happen".
Mr Cameron insisted that the Government was focused on securing growth amid criticism from opponents that the coalition has been obsessed with reducing the deficit at the expense of creating jobs.
Later he went to campaign in the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, where he has been accused of taking a back seat to boost coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, who lost by only 103 votes to Labour in May before the result was overturned in court.
He insisted he was breaking convention by campaigning while Prime Minister and insisted "we will be fighting very hard for every vote" despite a Lib Dem win being vital to bolster Nick Clegg.
In his speech on the economy, Mr Cameron said: "In the next few years people all over our country – north, south, east, west – are going to see real change in the way local economies work."
"New Local Enterprise Partnerships – coalitions of business, councils and communities like the one I saw in the Wirral this morning – are already working with business leaders like (Tesco boss] Terry Leahy to get big local projects off the ground to boost regional growth."
The national summit will bring together chairmen of the new partnerships to discuss growth and competitiveness. A fund of 4m over four years will also be set up to provide finance amid criticism there was no funding for running costs.
But Shadow Business Secretary John Denham accused Mr Cameron of "abandoning hard-hit regions to their fate".