Norfolk MPs' business plea

Norfolk businesses were last night urged by all nine of the county's MPs to get behind a new enterprise partnership which could be formed to bring jobs and investment to the county.

Norfolk businesses were last night urged by all nine of the county's MPs to get behind a new enterprise partnership which could be formed to bring jobs and investment to the county.

Ministers are expected to axe regional development agencies as the coalition government grapples to bring Britain's finances under control.

They plan to replace them with locally-elected partnerships which would be more focussed on the needs of their communities and less costly to the taxpayer.

Now, all nine of Norfolk's MPs have signed an open letter to the EDP, calling on businesses across the county to support the new partnership.

“The new government will shortly formalise its stated intention to create the space for local enterprise partnerships in the place of a regional structure that, in many local people's views, was not relevant enough to us here in Norfolk,” it says.

“The state of the public finances requires a new approach. We need to be business-led and support private sector leadership and job creation. Norfolk is well-placed - we have the innovative businesses, large and small, and an unparalleled opportunity to lead the way.

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“Norfolk needs economic growth for prosperity, new jobs and the regeneration of the deprived parts of our county. We don't need a government quango to do this for us.

“A local enterprise partnership for Norfolk must therefore bring together the best we have in local business and local government to lead the way.”

The letter bears the signature of the county's seven Conservative MPs - Chloe Smith, Henry Bellingham, Brandon Lewis, George Freeman, Keith Simpson, Elizabeth Truss and Richard Bacon - and Liberal Democrat MPs, Norman Lamb and Simon Wright.

Over the last 10 years, the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) has invested �131m into Norfolk's economy, creating or safeguarding more than 5,500 jobs.

A spokesman said: “We're fully involved in the conversation with businesses and councils to find out what's the best for taking economic development forward.”

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: “Norfolk can lead the way. There's no need for remote and cumbersome bureaucracy to develop the county economically when it can be done locally.

“Any local enterprise partnership has to be private sector-led, in partnership with local councils, because business knows how to do it.”

Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said: “The way the regions work, small areas like Great Yarmouth can sometimes lose out.

“This is a chance to focus on Norfolk and what Norfolk needs. It's the government saying you know your area, you know what you need, you put together a system which is best for your area.”

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: “I have always had my concerns about these development agencies because I feel they've been remote from Norfolk and indifferent at responding to Norfolk's needs.

“It's a big bureaucracy, it's a quango, it's quite remote from the local area, it's better to have a focus from within the county of Norfolk.”

The MPs' letter highlights Norfolk's “huge economic potential” in new sectors such as offshore wind energy, undersea carbon capture and food sciences.

“As Members of parliament across Norfolk, we passionately believe this is an exciting opportunity and we pledge to work together to support the government's plans for the good of our county, and support our local agencies in making our local enterprise partnership a model to follow,” it says.

“We invite business and communities across Norfolk to take up this opportunity and to think about how we can each play our part in unlocking an exciting economic future for Norfolk.”