The Government appoint a representative of an organisation that doesn't support economic growth to a key role overseeing the Regional Growth Fund

January 26, 2011 10:47 AM

This morning I have an article on the ConservativeHome website about the policies needed for economic growth.  Essentially the Government need to take key opportunities to reduce the burden they impose on families and businesses without compromising on the fiscal adjustment.  While I was writing that article yesterday though, an incredible example of the lack of seriousness in their approach to growth landed in an inbox from the TPA, in the form of a press release from the Cabinet Office.

That press release included the list of members of an Independent Advisory Panel, chaired by Lord Heseltine, who will play a key role in handing out the £1.4 billion Regional Growth Fund.  Here is the list:

  • Lord Heseltine, Chair

  • Sir Ian Wrigglesworth, Deputy Chair

  • Felicity Goodey (Businesswoman, former senior BBC journalist)

  • Tony Greenham (Programme Head, New Economics Foundation)

  • Richard Lambert (Director General, CBI)

  • Jon Moulton (Chairman, Better Capital equity group)

  • Caroline Plumb (Entrepreneur, Freshminds)

  • Sir David Rowlands (Chair of Gatwick Airport Ltd and Angel Trains Group Ltd)

  • Mark Seligman (Chartered Accountant and Banker, Credit Suisse)

  • Andrew Shilston (Finance Director, Rolls Royce)

  • Lord John Shipley (Former Leader Newcastle City Council)

  • Tony Venables (Academic Economist, Oxford University)


The one that really standards out is Tony Greenham, from the New Economics Foundation.  The NEF has attained a significant scale thanks to extremely generous taxpayer funding but which has incredibly radical views.  For example, they have twice produced the Happy Planet Index which argues that Burma, Saudi Arabia and Haiti are better economic models than the UK, US and Sweden as they show that "achieving, long, happy lives without over-stretching the planet’s resources is possible".  They produced an animation about why economic growth is unsustainable called The Impossible Hamster (only click on that link if you have a powerful tolerance for nonsense), ignoring the vital differences between 6 billion brilliant humans and a big fat hamster, like the ability to innovate and make use of new resources over time.  Brendan O'Neill at spiked has written a good rebuttal of the idea that the long term outlook for growth is really so hopeless.

Why exactly is there a representative of an organisation that doesn't support economic growth getting a key post advising on how to spend a growth fund?

The Regional Growth Fund is a bad enough idea anyway.  Businesses pay far more than £1.4 billion a year in tax so why not let them keep the money, rather than taking it away then giving it back in grants to select projects favoured by this panel of worthies?  The last thing regions crippled by dependence on government need is more spending.

But this appointment pushes the scheme over the edge from questionable idea to a bit of a joke.  The Government need to take creating the conditions for economic growth more seriously.This morning I have an article on the ConservativeHome website about the policies needed for economic growth.  Essentially the Government need to take key opportunities to reduce the burden they impose on families and businesses without compromising on the fiscal adjustment.  While I was writing that article yesterday though, an incredible example of the lack of seriousness in their approach to growth landed in an inbox from the TPA, in the form of a press release from the Cabinet Office.

That press release included the list of members of an Independent Advisory Panel, chaired by Lord Heseltine, who will play a key role in handing out the £1.4 billion Regional Growth Fund.  Here is the list:

  • Lord Heseltine, Chair

  • Sir Ian Wrigglesworth, Deputy Chair

  • Felicity Goodey (Businesswoman, former senior BBC journalist)

  • Tony Greenham (Programme Head, New Economics Foundation)

  • Richard Lambert (Director General, CBI)

  • Jon Moulton (Chairman, Better Capital equity group)

  • Caroline Plumb (Entrepreneur, Freshminds)

  • Sir David Rowlands (Chair of Gatwick Airport Ltd and Angel Trains Group Ltd)

  • Mark Seligman (Chartered Accountant and Banker, Credit Suisse)

  • Andrew Shilston (Finance Director, Rolls Royce)

  • Lord John Shipley (Former Leader Newcastle City Council)

  • Tony Venables (Academic Economist, Oxford University)


The one that really standards out is Tony Greenham, from the New Economics Foundation.  The NEF has attained a significant scale thanks to extremely generous taxpayer funding but which has incredibly radical views.  For example, they have twice produced the Happy Planet Index which argues that Burma, Saudi Arabia and Haiti are better economic models than the UK, US and Sweden as they show that "achieving, long, happy lives without over-stretching the planet’s resources is possible".  They produced an animation about why economic growth is unsustainable called The Impossible Hamster (only click on that link if you have a powerful tolerance for nonsense), ignoring the vital differences between 6 billion brilliant humans and a big fat hamster, like the ability to innovate and make use of new resources over time.  Brendan O'Neill at spiked has written a good rebuttal of the idea that the long term outlook for growth is really so hopeless.

Why exactly is there a representative of an organisation that doesn't support economic growth getting a key post advising on how to spend a growth fund?

The Regional Growth Fund is a bad enough idea anyway.  Businesses pay far more than £1.4 billion a year in tax so why not let them keep the money, rather than taking it away then giving it back in grants to select projects favoured by this panel of worthies?  The last thing regions crippled by dependence on government need is more spending.

But this appointment pushes the scheme over the edge from questionable idea to a bit of a joke.  The Government need to take creating the conditions for economic growth more seriously.

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