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Ian Brinkley
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Ian Brinkley

No stone unturned

Authors: Ian Brinkley Ian Brinkley

13 November 2012

As the Chancellor prepares for the Autumn Statement, he will be trying to respond to the Heseltine Growth Review, No Stone Unturned.  Having commissioned the review, the Chancellor can hardly ignore it. But it includes some messages that are likely to have made uncomfortable reading for the government. A credible growth plan, more powers to the regions and a boost for innovation – the Chancellor will need to show he is responding in each of these areas. The big one is the need for a credible growth plan – a clear account of how and where growth is to come from, overseen by a new National Growth Council chaired by the Prime Minister.The day after the Autumn Statement is unveiled, partners will be able to quiz Will Hutton and I on our instant response and analysis. Mark Littlewood will also participate in our briefing event.

Less difficult but still tricky is the call for a substantial transfer of funds backed by increased powers for Local Enterprise Partnerships. In principle, the government should have no great problem with this – but persuading ministers to hand over control of their budgets may prove more difficult in practice. Heseltine’s radical proposal to make membership of Chambers of Commerce compulsory for most businesses is however likely to be politely ignored. 

Heseltine also called for a number of government initiatives to support innovation and technological development. In his speech last week at the Royal Society, the Chancellor seemed to acknowledge the importance of that agenda by setting out a list of technologies in which Britain could become a world leader, pledging the government’s support. The Autumn Statement will be the first test of what that pledge means in practice. We fully endorse the call from the Campaign for Science and Engineering and Nesta, backed by a number of high-profile scientists including Brian Cox, Lord Rees and Ben Goldacre for the proceeds of the 4G licence sale (as much as £4 billion) to be devoted to strengthening the UK’s innovation and investment infrastructure. We may have to wait until next month to see if the Chancellor uses the Autumn Statement to reveal whether or not he is in agreement.