Rail, Afghanistan, Olympics and Birmingham's economy on the agenda for Brum Cabinet
David Cameron, Nick Clegg and others Ministers heard a first hand account of the state of the economy in Birmingham, when the Cabinet met in the city today.
An account of the Cabinet meeting provided by Downing Street reveals they heard from Andy Street, the Managing Director of John Lewis, who chairs Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, a partnership between business leaders and local authorities set up to support economic growth in the region.
Also on the agenda was rail investment, Afghanistan and the Olympics, according to Downing Street.
Here is the official account of the meeting from Number 10:
Cabinet read out Monday 16 July 2012
Cabinet met in Birmingham today at 11.30am for about an hour and a half.
The issues discussed included Parliamentary business, Afghanistan, infrastructure, rail investment, local growth and preparations for the Olympics and Paralympics.
A major focus of today's Cabinet discussions was infrastructure and growth. The Chancellor began by updating the Cabinet on recent decisions made to support infrastructure investment. He said that because of the action taken to deal with the deficit - reducing it by a quarter in the first two years of this Government - and the credibility that has been built up on our balance sheet, the Government was now in a position to consider a programme of guarantees to help investment in major infrastructure projects. This approach was backed up by both the IMF and the CBI. Which projects would benefit has yet to be considered, but the Government would hope to be in a position to announce support for individual projects in the Autumn.
The Transport Secretary updated the Cabinet on the £4.2 billion additional investment in rail announced today, that will build on the £5 billion already announced for 2014-19. The Transport Secretary underlined the importance of the investment announced: both freight and passenger numbers are continuing to increase and while investment in rail infrastructure would help to address this, the investment also serves to stimulate growth and build engineering skills. The PM agreed that many parts of the country would benefit from the investment announced today and that was why it was important that Ministers took that message directly to people today by visiting many regions of the country.
Turning to local growth, the Communities Secretary and the Business Secretary presented a paper looking at progress made so far and setting out how the Government and its agencies could do more to lift barriers to success. Andy Street, Managing Director of John Lewis and Chair of the Birmingham Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) was also present and shared his views on the progress made in Birmingham.
The Communities Secretary underlined how LEPs have allowed local civic and business leaders to help build growth locally without the artificial administrative barriers that the old system of development agencies created, and at a fraction of the cost. There are 39 LEPs in place and many are demonstrating excellent progress. LEPs have taken a leading role in setting the priorities for investment and shaped the development of initiatives for growth, for example, the development of Enterprise Zones, initiating the Growing Places Fund, and empowering decisions at the local level through the eight City Deals. LEPs also played a key role in many of the bids for the Regional Growth Fund which is helping to secure jobs across the country. The Business Secretary said that work continues on the Industrial Strategy which will focus on key areas to develop in the economy. Summing up, the PM said that the local growth framework was now in place, local enterprise partnerships are doing a great job focusing on delivery and Ministers should do all they can to ensure LEPs continue to succeed.
The Cabinet was reminded that preparing the venues for the Olympics and Paralympics was an excellent example of a hugely complex, major infrastructure project that had helped to provide many jobs - and the Games themselves would benefit the UK economy greatly through business and tourism, and the Government was working hard to ensure all opportunities are maximised.
Updates on preparations for the Games and the progress of the Torch relay were given by the Culture Secretary, Home Secretary and Transport Secretary.
Despite some issues over the past week, the programme to deliver the largest event in the world remains on track and Ministers were reassured that we are in a far better shape than many previous hosts. Part of the preparations for the Games was to build contingency arrangements into plans, as demonstrated in recent days. Ministers agreed that efforts would continue and they remained confident but not complacent about staging a great Games.
Ministers noted that the first section of the Olympic Route Network comes into operation today, peak numbers of Olympic teams are due to arrive at Heathrow throughout the week, and the Olympic Flame will arrive in London on Friday. The Cabinet agreed that the scale of the challenge should not be underestimated and where difficulties arise along the way there are extensive plans in place to manage and address them.
Safety and security is a Government's foremost responsibility and the Cabinet was reminded that we have extensive, intelligence-led security plans, with robust contingency arrangements in place. The threat level has not been increased, but there would be no compromise on security. All partners are working tirelessly to keep people safe during the Games.
The PM thanked Ministers for the good work to date but insisted that they continue to focus on preparations and to ensure any concerns are raised quickly and dealt with appropriately.
The Defence Secretary updated Cabinet on progress in Afghanistan, particularly in the light of the outcomes agreed at the recent Tokyo Development Conference.