Lord Heseltine warns Humber business leaders that renewable energy is 'only a part, not the whole'
HUMBER business leaders have been warned not to get too bogged down in the renewables industry by the man charged with helping change the region's economic landscape.
Lord Haskins, along with other business and political leaders, met former Tory Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine in Hull yesterday.
The senior Tory peer was in the city to discuss the Humber's role as a pathfinder following his report, published last autumn, calling for Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to be given control over funds currently administered by Westminster.
He said: "Renewable energy has exciting potential but it's only a part and not the whole.
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"Siemens is seen as a confidence builder of great significance but there are also other opportunities to be grasped.
"The economy as a whole is bigger than Siemens and you can't ignore the rest of it."
Lord Heseltine met local leaders at the World Trade Centre in Queen Street.
He said: "The meeting was very comprehensive and we discussed the LEP's reaction to my report.
"To make the most of the opportunities available will require a significant degree of local working.
"Localism is not difficult to understand. Who knows best what the problems are, the officials in London or those who eat, sleep and breathe the Humber?"
Becoming a pathfinder can only be a good thing for the Humber, Lord Heseltine insists.
He said: "I think that if you can be ahead of the game you learn lessons more quickly and create partnerships earlier than elsewhere. There is a feeling in the Humber there is still a long way to go but this is the right starting point. This is a long term change of culture.
"The next step is waiting for the Government's response to my report. All the indications are that Whitehall is taking this seriously."
Lord Haskins admits there are big challenges ahead.
He said: "Lord Heseltine asked us sharp and direct questions but he is very supportive of what we are trying to achieve. We have to prove we are capable of doing a better job than central Government.
"Improving skills is definitely the biggest issue we face along with infrastructure.
"There is no point in attracting companies here and then finding they have to employ from outside the region because there isn't the skill base.
"We hope being a pathfinder will put us at the forefront and ensure Whitehall gives us special attention.
"However, it also means we will be the one making the mistakes from which other regions can learn."
Lord Haskins admits local authorities across the Humber have to co-operate more effectively.
He said: "We need to get the business community and political leaders to work more closely together.
"The Humber's local authorities could also do better in working alongside one another.
"This is a big opportunity for the Humber and we must not let it slip through our fingers."
The next step will be to form groups to look at the different aspects of the Humber's economy.
Lord Haskins said: "We will be meeting regularly with Lord Heseltine and our next job is to form seven or eight working parties focusing of different sectors to each produce a report in the next two or three months."