Nick Clegg to admit Coalition fault in impeding growth


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The Independent Online

The Government will admit tomorrow that it has become a barrier to securing economic growth as it announces a new drive to boost job-creating projects at local level.

Nick Clegg, who is to chair a new Cabinet committee on “local growth,” will concede: “We need to break down the silos that exist in Whitehall, with the right hand not talking to the left hand.” Speaking in Sheffield, he will say that local bodies should no longer need to get the go-ahead from several government departments before “the first hole” can be dug.

Today the Cabinet discussed growth projects that are running behind schedule, including a £530m plan to extend super-fast internet networks to rural areas by 2015. Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, is braced for strong criticism in a report next month by the National Audit Office spending watchdog. Her department will come under scrutiny for the way it handed the contract to BT without a proper bidding process. The company has said that some networks will not be installed until 2016.

Mr Clegg will pledge to “change once and for all the Whitehall culture that says devolution is good, as long as it's not my department you are talking about. You can't devolve responsibilities to local economies, without giving them real control and the tools to use it.”  One aide to the Deputy Prime Minister said: “If we are serious about giving power back locally, we've got to change the way the centre operates. The new committee will be a way to fast-track big investment decisions and boost jobs and growth across the country.”