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Three counties propose working together to boost growth

Words: Laura Edgar

The ‘Economic Heartland’ of England is seeking devolved powers to boost economic growth as Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire join forces.

A report due to be heard during Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet meeting this week will hear how the three counties will press the government to help break down barriers to increase prosperity in the area.

The alliance wants a five-year growth deal that will “unify various funding streams” available for strategic projects and economic growth.

This will give businesses the confidence to invest in the area, said Oxfordshire County Council.

England’s ‘Economic Heartland’ wants to increase the area’s economy by £9 billion each year, from £46.6 billion - and to create 135,000 jobs by 2020.

The alliance explained that rather than working in isolation, integrating to work across county borders would help to realise infrastructure projects by saving money and reducing red tape.

Ian Hudspeth, the leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “As the name suggests, England’s Economic Heartland is one of the powerhouses of the UK economy. It is our belief that we can further enhance our competitiveness in global markets with this innovative new model, and in the process help contribute to the UK being the most prosperous major economy.”

He said that ‘England’s Economic Heartland’ provides a way of enabling economies of scale and efficiencies to be realised. “However, it also ensures that priorities are driven by locally identified needs and opportunities.”

Hudspeth also emphasised that the alliance did not mean the councils would be merging; they will remain as “distinct entities”, retaining their roles and responsibilities for local issues.

The county councils from each county, though, will work with their respective local enterprise partnerships.