Jeremy Hunt to ‘supercharge growth’ with 12 investment zones

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will “supercharge growth” at the Budget on Wednesday when he announces 12 investment zones that help communities level up.

Mr Hunt said: “True levelling up must be about local wealth creation and local decision-making to unblock obstacles to regeneration.

“From unleashing opportunity through new Investment Zones, to a new approach to accelerating research and development in city regions, we are delivering on our key priority to supercharge growth across the country.”

The zones will be clustered around research institutions, such as universities, and will focus on creating growth in sectors like technology, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and the green sector.

Funding will be used to improve skills, provide specialist business support, improve the planning system, or for local infrastructure.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “Levelling up means backing local growth across the UK, driving innovation to attract investment and putting power into the hands of local communities so they can reach their full potential.

“Our new investment zones and Levelling Up Partnerships will deliver more jobs, better services and more opportunities for local people.”

The eight places in England shortlisted to host investment zones include: the proposed East Midlands Mayoral Combined County Authority, Greater Manchester Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA), Liverpool City Region MCA and the proposed North East MCA.

Other regions are South Yorkshire MCA, Tees Valley MCA, West Midlands MCA and West Yorkshire MCA.

Mr Hunt’s Budget is widely expected to focus on economic inactivity, which is among Britain’s biggest economic challenges.

The largest number of inactive workers are aged 50 to 64 but this is likely driven more by early retirement than ill health, the Centre for Policy Studies said in a report.

It argues that raising or scrapping the pension lifetime allowance, whose value has more than halved in real terms since 2010, would keep more people in the workforce – including in the NHS

Changes to disability benefits have increased inactivity while there is “an alarming rise” in inactivity among those aged 18 to 24, in particular because of mental health issues.

Karl Williams, CPS senior researcher and report author, said: “Policy solutions to economic inactivity are as varied as the reasons behind it, but the government should, as a priority, act to remove financial penalties which incentivise early retirement and seek to reform the PIP assessment to allow those who are unwell or living with disabilities to access work with fewer risks if they relapse.”

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