It may seem a strange thing to say in between Easter and the Royal Wedding, but Wednesday of this week saw a big day in the political calendar – the official growth estimate for the first quarter of 2011, which put the UK economy up by 0.5 per cent.
The manufacturing sector also continued its recovery this quarter with encouraging figures released on Tuesday by the Confederation of British Industry showing a surge in manufacturing production and 20% of companies reporting an increase in orders. Good news for our regional economy.
It has been just over a month since the Chancellor delivered the Budget which launched the Coalition Government’s ‘Plan for Growth’, and we have seen a series of significant policy announcements detailing our ongoing work on the economy.
It is inevitable that following the worst recession since the 1930s the recovery will be choppy. However, earlier this month I welcomed the results of the first round of the Regional Growth Fund which saw five West Midlands projects benefit from some £450m of public money to help drive economic growth and job creation in the local area.
The five West Midlands companies that were successful make up 8% of the total number of successful bids from across the UK and are: Alstom Grid UK, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce (on behalf of Birmingham City Council), Bosch Thermotechnology Ltd, Prince’s Regeneration Trust and Jaguar Land Rover.
As a result of this financial commitment from the Government, 6,193 jobs in the West Midlands will be directly created or safeguarded, with 34,699 supported indirectly through associated supply chains and local economies.
This is great news for the West Midlands and Sutton Coldfield. Supporting job creation in the regional economy is vital if we are to drive growth in our local communities. This money will really help to create and safeguard many jobs in Sutton Coldfield and boost growth generally in the West Midlands which has been badly hit by the economic downturn.
And two weeks ago I also welcomed the Government’s plans to create the Birmingham Enterprise Zone, one of 21 new such zones across the country.
Birmingham’s Enterprise Zone will boost growth, jobs and enterprise, with tax breaks and reduced red tape to attract business, simplified planning rules and super-fast broadband. It is also unashamedly localist by keeping power and profits within the local area so our community benefits from the wider economic benefits.
Overall we want to achieve strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries.
Throughout this year and beyond the Government will focus relentlessly on supporting the private sector to continue to create growth and jobs across our economy. Our four overarching ambitions for the British economy are to create the most competitive tax system in the G20, to make the UK the best place in Europe to run a business, to encourage investment and exports and to create a more skilled workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.
Our message is clear: Britain is open for business.