The Bolton News: curry

BOLTON has a strong identity, a good brand and needs to maintain its independent vision at a time of harsh economic uncertainty.

That is the view of Robert Hough, chairman of the North West Regional Development Agency (NWDA).

He was guest speaker at The Curry Club, a group of Bolton professionals who meet once a quarter at the Spice Valley restaurant in The Valley, Bolton.

The group consists of bankers, accountants, solicitors and other professionals who gather to hear a selection of speakers, discuss the local economy and to network.

Mr Hough said that within the North West region, Manchester was a strong commercial centre in its own right — but that Bolton also had a strong identity which it needed to maintain.

The NWDA is soon to be replaced by a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) between business leaders and local authorities. However, it is still unclear how much funding, if any, the new LEPs will get.

Mr Hough said he thought about seven LEPs would be created in the North West, with two for Lancashire, but what and how they would work had not yet been finalised.

But he understood control of business support services would be withdrawn to Whitehall and would be mainly web-based.

Mr Hough said: “It will go from regional support, as provided by NWDA and Business Link, to localised support which appears to be in line with the Big Society concept.

“So far it’s unclear what the LEPs will do as, instead of the regional support we had previously, there will be seven LEPs in Manchester, Cheshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and Merseyside.

“Manchester city is an exemplar of higher performance in the region and Bolton is part of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) family.

“But Bolton has a clear identity and a strong brand and it’s important for Bolton to maintain its own independent and strong vision.”

Mr Hough added: “I think we are in for a slow economic recovery. I don’t think there’s a risk of a double dip, but it will be a long, slow, haul out of the recession.”

Mr Hough is a non-executive deputy chairman of Peel Holdings and previously an executive director for more than 13 years.

He is also a non-executive director of a number of other companies, including Provident Financial and the Styles and Wood Group.

An existing board member of the NWDA, with responsibilities for development and infrastructure, Business Link and sub-regional strategic liaison for Lancashire, Mr Hough is also a member of the Northern Way Steering Group.

He is also a board member of the University of Manchester and was previously a member of the North West Regional Assembly executive board.

He chairs New East Manchester Limited, one of the first urban regeneration companies to be established, and is a member and former chairman of the North West Business Leadership team.

The Curry Club is sponsored by Chancellor Financial management.