Winston Churchill said that:
For a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
That is not Lord Heseltine's view. He thinks there is some merit in the Government taking money from business in tax and then giving some back in subsidies. He favours "intervening before breakfast" – this derives not only from his philosophical attachment to the corporate state but also his energy and vanity. He is just temperamentally unsuited as a politician to keep out of the way and allow individuals and businesses to exercise free choice in a market. Lord Heseltine itches to meddle.
None of this is news. Does this mean his report should be ignored? Not all of it. Certainly let's dispense with the gimmicky Blair era stuff about setting up a taskforce for this, a team for that, a board for the other. A National Growth Council to promote a National Growth Strategy. An Industry Council for every sector. A Strategic Relationship Management Model. Perhaps "Blair-era" is being kind – I half expected to see a return to George Brown's Five Year Plan.
Lord Heseltine gets excited about billions spent on the Regional Growth Fund or, via the EU, on the Common Strategic Framework. Fools' gold, of course. Growth is constrained by the crippling taxes required to pay for these subsidies.
I've already covered his support for unitary local authorities which I have mixed feeling about – at the Adam Smith Institute blog Eamonn Butler makes the point that it tends to be centralising rather than localist move. The district councils are abolished while the county councils remain in place.
Yet if we leave aside the ideological debate and look at the 83 recommendations some of them look sensible.
Here were a few I liked the look of:
14. Local authority council members should be elected using the same electoral cycle across England where the whole council is elected at the same time every four years.
58. The Government Property Unit should work with local authorities to identify and publish details of all surplus and derelict public land on the ePIMS database so that LEPs and local authorities can collaborate to bring this land back into reuse in support of the local economic strategy.
65. Local authorities should publish the list of all businesses paying non-domestic rates so that chambers and other business representative bodies can identify businesses in their area more reliably, and seek to draw them into the local businesses support initiatives. There should be exceptions for businesses where the identification of business premises could give rise to security concerns.
77. The bureaucracy and paper work around work experience and work placements must be streamlined. DfE must be clear about what is absolutely necessary. Government must then ensure the removal of all regulations and requirements that place unnecessary burdens on employers, schools and colleges.
78. All boards of governors in secondary schools should include two influential local employers, at least one of whom should have good connections with the wider business community. This could be coordinated by the local chambers of commerce.