Council chiefs have seized on a potential new role in infrastructure following the publication of the Industrial Strategy, and called for a 'regional aid fund' and streamlined local cash.
Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, called for a 'regional aid scheme' to replace EU regeneration funds and give local areas more say over how it is spent after Brexit.
Local areas in England have been allocated £5.3bn in EU regeneration cash by 2020 to create jobs, build infrastructure and boost local growth across the country.
He added the strategy was 'an opportunity to bring together fragmented national growth-related funding which sees £23bn spread out across 70 funding streams and managed by 22 government departments and agencies'.
Birmingham City Council leader John Clancy
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association’s head of external affairs, Marie-Claude Hemming, said it was essential to have programmes in place that reform procurement.
‘The Government has recognised that it has a role to play in enabling industries to modernise, and at the same time work with us to remove barriers to progress,' she added.
In the private sector, Nick Roberts, CEO of Atkins UK and Europe and member of the Brexit Infrastructure Leadership Group said: ‘The UK’s immediate future is full of uncertainties and opportunities. Having a clear, ambitious industrial strategy starts to put us in control of our destiny.
‘The UK is home to a cluster of world leading professional expertise in the financing, design, delivery and operation of high performing infrastructure. We need to nurture this cluster and quickly embrace and capitalise on advancements in technology to meet our own needs and grow a sector which can be a major contributor to our future export success.’
Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG UK, sent out a warning that industry would be 'disappointed' if the Government used the strategy to try and simply recycle projects through re-announcements.
Placing devolution at the heart of the UK's industrial plans, Birmingham City Council leader John Clancy said: ‘Underpinning any sensible industrial strategy must be a genuine Government commitment to devolution, allowing cities and city regions to drive forward with policy shaped by local decision making and, crucially, making sure that Whitehall funding follows the devolution trail.
‘The Government must also ensure that governance at a regional level, whether through combined authorities, local enterprise partnerships, or metro mayors, should be able to work with development bodies that can intervene more widely and strategically at a regional level, and do smart specialisation through regional level industrial policies.’
While Cllr Anne Western, Councty Councils Network spokeswoman and leader of Derbyshire CC, said that the 'lower than average productivity, and infrastructure gaps amounting to billions' in counties meant the focus should not simply be on the big cities.