Lord Heseltine was asked to be bold in his review of Government support for the economy and there’s no doubt he delivered on that score.
There can’t have been too much surprise about his proposals either, radical as they are.
The former deputy prime minister, dubbed Tarzan, is well known as somebody who believes government has a role to play in making economic growth a reality. It’s not enough to stand back and let the free market take its course, in his view.
He is also known for his belief in the importance of strong local institutions with real power, including spending power.
But he’s not simply calling for more localism. Rather, he wants both central government and local institutions to do more, with the prime minister taking the lead.
In the circumstances, ministers would have no excuse for ignoring his proposals. He’s done exactly as they presumably hoped he would, when they asked him to carry out the review.
And while his detailed and comprehensive proposals clearly require study before a final judgment can be reached, it is notable that the initial response from business leaders and from Birmingham City Council has been extremely positive.
Labour wisely decided to welcome the report, and promised to steal the best ideas.
But what matters most, for now at least, is how the Government responds. And while statements from the business secretary and the chancellor were full of praise for Lord Heseltine’s wisdom, there was little indication that ministers are ready to put his ideas into practice.
Maybe that will change over the next few weeks or months. There are certainly are some proposals worth exploring.
Lord Heseltine’s report was trailed in parts of the media as a call to bring back regional development agencies, the massive government agencies set up by Labour and abolished by this government.
That wasn’t correct. The regional development agencies, sorely missed as they may be by parts of the business community, were essentially regional branches of the Department for Business.
What Lord Heseltine wants to do is strengthen local enterprise partnerships which are very different bodies, led by local councils and the business community.
Handing them billions of pounds currently administered by Whitehall will certainly be a dramatic change. But can it really make sense to believe ministers or civil servants in Whitehall are best placed to draw up plans to create jobs or improve skills in the West Midlands, rather than the region’s own employers and elected politicians?
Ensuring every LEP has direct contact with a designated cabinet minister will also be a positive step. Some of the proposals, such as reviving the debate about city mayors, are unlikely to achieve a consensus. But others are well worth taking up.