Daily Archives: October 28, 2010

Jim Pickard

10 Downing Street has opened up its doors to transparency with a list of visits to the building, hospitality received and gifts to the prime minister – as well as foreign trips.

The list of visitors seems rather brief (see below). Interesting to see Ratan Tata, the billionaire Indian businessman, dropping in twice. And Bob Geldof (pictured) among the first to arrive.

If you want to know why the list is so thin, it is because the prime minister has excluded any private visits to his flat, as I revealed last Saturday. Instead there are only the formal engagements downstairs. Not quite as transparent as it could have been.

Meetings with external Organisations:

May 2010: Meeting with 16 different charity organisation (To discuss big Society)
May 2010: Meeting with Rupert Murdoch (General Meeting)
June 2010: World Bank (to discuss Business Issues)
June 2010: Bod Geldof (to discuss Development Issues)
June 2010: Ratan Tata (to disuss Business Issues)
June 2010: Facebook (to discuss New Media Issues)
June2010: FIFA (to discuss Sporting and World Cup Issues)
July 2010: Aiden Barclay (General Meeting) 

Jim Pickard

An interesting exchange at Treasury select committee this morning, where Lord Turnbull – former head of the civil service – seemed to question George Osborne’s claim that Britain was on the brink of bankruptcy until now.

Chuka Umunna: “You said that you didn’t think the issues that had been raised in relation to sovereign debt and the UK were relevant. What did you mean by that?” 

Jim Pickard

We wrote on the front page of the FT this morning about widespread scepticism about the new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) which will be announced today. Business groups need persuading* that the new bodies are not just a feeble attempt to paper over the gap left by the dismantling of the old regional development agencies (RDAs).

The financing of LEPS, seemingly random hybrids of councils and companies, is likely to be hand-to-mouth, with a Darwinian contest for the money in the new regional growth fund which is offering about £500m a year for three years. (They will be competing not only with each other but with hundreds of private sector bidders for this cash). The RDAs, by contrast, received £1.5bn every year.

I’m told there may be another rabbit in the hat today which councils have been calling for for ages. The policy – in the regional white paper – would mean that local authorities which encourage economic growth get to keep a greater share of their business rates. (At present the levy goes to central government and is then redistributed through a complicated grant formula).

There are strong rumours that this new flexibility will be in today’s announcement, according to council sources. It would certainly be welcomed by the Local Government Association. (UPDATE: VInce Cable has confirmed this – or at least that it is under consideration). 

One of the last places in Britain you’d think of hosting next week’s Anglo-French summit is aboard the HMS Ark Royal, the Royal Navy flagship that was abruptly decommissioned in the defence review.

But, incredible as it sounds, someone in Downing Street thought this idea was worth investigating.

For a couple of weeks, officials in Paris and London were busily working on a plan to bring Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron together on the deck of a carrier.

Team Cameron thought it would provide a splendid backdrop that emphasised the strengthened Anglo-French military ties.

But finding the right spot proved tricky.

The most practical option was Ark Royal, which is based in Portsmouth. With impeccable timing, I’m told the Downing Street location scouts paid a visit within days of the Ark Royal crew being told the ship was to be scrapped. Cameron’s emissaries were, understandably, not given the warmest reception.

If this mini-blunder does highlight anything, it is the weakness of Cameron’s position.