Lord Heseltine swings by …

Yesterday Lord Heseltine was in our fair city. He is meeting up with the LEP’s to see what progress they are making on their various grand plans. I was amongst a mixed group of public and private sector representatives invited to quiz him at his meeting with D2N2.


They always say a good politician won’t answer a question. But Heseltine is better than that. I don’t think he ducked any questions. But his answers were clever. On the face of it I thought they were surprisingly candid. But afterwards thought that they were really shrewd.

One of the frustrations of many people in the room was the application process that is the gatekeeper to Government money. It seems perplexing to some (who give up) and frustrating to others (who battle on bravely). Civil servants can take on the mantle of ‘Business Prevention Officers’ at times. Heseltine said several times – ‘we need to make sure we’re getting value for money‘. This is right and proper – it is taxpayers money after all.

But then he said something quite surprising. He suggested that this frustration about process wasn’t known about in Government. No one was feeding that back. So, in the absence of such feedback, how was Government to know?

He then suggested that those folks scarred and bruised by the process should ‘fight back’. We should challenge the system. Make a noise – kick off (my phrases not his).

I smiled at the thought – it appeals to my troublemaking side.

But then I considered what he had said. His advice is difficult to follow. Firstly getting at the right person is never easy. Secondly, there might also be another opportunity to apply for funds again – and calling those who judge such things horrid names might be a short term feel-good moment and long term financial loss. It’s not easy to challenge the behemoths of Government departments.

After all, as he wisely said, Government won’t let go of power because they don’t think we are capable of making things work!

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