STIMULATING private sector economic growth is one of the Government’s top priorities.

And a key move towards that was the announcement in last year’s budget of the creation of 21 Enterprise Zones.

The aim is to help create and encourage the new businesses and jobs which are so badly needed in the current economic climate.

At the heart of these new zones is a desire to reduce burdens for businesses, specifically concentrating on lower business rates as well as reinvesting the cash from those rates back into the enterprise zone areas.

With 11 sites already selected, Local Enterprise Partnerships have been invited to bid to host the 10 remaining zones with winning bids being announced in the summer.

I was delighted, therefore, when it was announced that a bid linking BAE’s Warton and Samlesbury plants had been put forward as Lancashire’s offering.

This is something that I have been extremely keen on and I have been, and will continue to, work very closely with BAE Systems to help push the bid forward.

As Lancashire’s target area, the planned zone is likely to see vacant land at both sites used for new business.  

Surrounding areas, where conditions allow, will also be viable for development of new and emerging companies.

The bid, if successful, will ensure that Fylde is at the heart of a pioneering wave of technological advancements which will secure jobs for our young people in manufacturing and engineering for years to come.

There will, of course, be stiff competition to gain Enterprise Zone status from a number of other Local Enterprise Partnerships.

But please, be assured, I will be lobbying my ministerial colleagues as strongly as I can to give the area every chance of benefiting from this scheme.

Meanwhile this week there was great news for users of cheques after the Payments Council that the date for ending the use of cheques has been scrapped.

Cheques are vital to small business, charities and elderly people and they must not simply be scrapped without an easy-to-use, safe and reliable replacement.

Many people contacted me regarding this issue and I’m delighted, as I know a lot of others will be too, that common sense has prevailed.

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