Scrap two-tier local councils says Heseltine
A mega-fund totalling almost £60 billion should be set up to enable the Westcountry and other regions to action targeted plans to boost economic growth, it has been proposed.
The "big bazooka" approach using Whitehall cash is among a raft of measures in a radical blueprint drawn up for the Government by former Tory Cabinet Minister Michael Heseltine.
The review, which would see a beefed-up role for the Heart of the South West and Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnerships, also calls for district councils across the Westcountry to be scrapped.
The two-tier system of local government led to "duplication and inefficiencies" and made it more difficult to "exploit economic opportunities fully", the 228-page report claims, while a single unitary authority would be easier for business to deal with and speed up decisions.
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Lord Heseltine pointed to the example of Cornwall which he said was making year-on-year multi-million pound savings after initial set-up costs.
Other proposals included all-out council elections every four years, and legislating to allow local authority areas to join together and elect a "conurbation" mayor.
One of his key measures put forward is to bring together separate sources of Whitehall funding supporting growth such as skills, employment, and infrastructure into a single pot of cash.
Together with European money, this fund could total £58 billion over four years. Local Enterprise Partnerships could then bid for a slice of this funding to implement tailored long-term plans each had drawn up to kick-start their economies.
The review also called for civil servants based in the regions to be gathered into Local Growth Teams to support the LEPs, while each cabinet minister should form links with the economic groups.
On education and skills, the review said all failing schools should be subject to intervention. And paperwork around work experience and placements should be cut, while all boards of secondary school governors should include two influential local employers, with connections to the wider business community.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said: "I wanted Lord Heseltine to do what he does best: challenge received wisdom and give us ideas on how to bring Government and industry together. This is a report bursting with ideas and we will study it very carefully."