Worcestershire has 'punched below its weight' for too long, says deputy leader (From Malvern Gazette)
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Worcestershire has 'punched below its weight' for too long, says deputy leader
A LEADING Worcestershire politician has hailed a "step change" in ambition - after admitting the county has "punched below its weight" for too long.
Councillor Simon Geraghty, the county council's deputy leader, says not enough has been done to take advantage of the assets Worcestershire has, such as its unique heritage and world class manufacturing base.
He has also revealed how County Hall's leadership is firmly backing a blueprint to create 25,000 new jobs in a decade - revealing that figure is 10,000 above what would happen if nothing new was done to create jobs.
As your Worcester News revealed in January, the Government is making £5 billion available between now and 2020 to counties with detailed economic plans.
Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the lobbying body for business, is being tasked with bidding for some of that cash by producing a blueprint for how it wants the county to grow.
Cllr Geraghty, speaking during a cabinet meeting, said Worcestershire has to recognise it is now "competing" with other areas for cash.
"Some time ago Lord Heseltine produced his report recommending quite radical changes to the way local government is funded," he said.
"That said it would be a competitive process, there isn't going to be jam for everybody and if we want it, we've got to go after it.
"We really want to make a step change and take it up a gear in terms of where we're going in Worcestershire.
"We recognise, perhaps we've punched below our weight or put it this way, there is the potential to do so much more.
"We've got to up our game and we're doing that. Doing what we are doing now, we can expect 15,000 new jobs in Worcestershire over that time but the fact we're aiming for 25,000 shows we're seeking that step change."
Cllr Geraghty went to London earlier this month to try and influence Government figures over the money.
The final LEP blueprint is due to be submitted at the end of March and money will then be distributed nationwide, via all LEPs, in the summer.
Councillor John Campion, cabinet member for transformation and commissioning, said: "This is a signal that the sleeping giant in Worcestershire is awakening.
"These are significant figures and it's not just about more jobs, but bringing better quality jobs to the county.
"No longer are we content with being Middle England, we want to put Worcestershire on the map."
During the debate councillors said the LEP has found Worcestershire has the third biggest advanced manufacturing base in entire the UK.
Councillors said another little-known fact is that Birmingham is now the third most popular short-break destination in England, and insisted Worcestershire should be tapping into that popularity.
The LEP has pledged to focus on four key areas of manufacturing, cyber security, agriculture and tourism.
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