The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee publishes its first Report of the new Parliament. Entitled The New Local Enterprise Partnerships; An Initial Assessment, the Report looks at the Government’s policy of introducing new Local Enterprise Partnerships to replace the Regional Development Agencies.
The Report, recognises the opportunity that LEPs offer for business and local government to work in closer partnership, opening up roads to local growth.
The Report warns that Government needs to be conscious of the potential gap in LEP funding—between start-up and an eventually self-sustaining financial model—and in certain cases be willing to support LEPs at inception. LEPs’ role in promoting growth and rebalancing the economy is too important, and the potential dividends from their success too great, to permit them to fail for lack of small amounts of transition funding. In particular, the Report recommends that the Department give its full support to areas that wish to proceed with an LEP but which have yet to obtain recognition.
The task of allocating the Regional Growth Fund should be undertaken with an eye on those areas that would struggle to obtain resources for an attractive bid. At the regional level, the Report recommends that the democratically expressed wishes of local businesses to retain regional coordination should be respected where they are clearly manifested.
The Report highlights the important role to be played by the Department’s transition team, and recommends that it concentrates its efforts in three areas: retaining RDA know-how, realising the full potential of RDA assets, and leveraging potential EU funding.
The Report concludes that for LEPs to be a success, the Government will have to commit to devolving power where possible, and supporting LEPs in their start-up period both through appropriate financial support and retention of RDA know-how. It also notes that a great deal of work and creativity is required from all involved in the LEP process, but the prospect of more vigorous, more responsive local economies is to be welcomed.
Adrian Bailey MP, Chair of the Committee said:
“LEPs have the potential to kick-start local growth by concentrating on local areas. But at the moment they are an unproven innovation. To succeed, LEPs will need the powers and recognition required to give substance to their visions for turning local economies around. They must also overcome local rivalries and politics and collaborate with many partners for the benefit of the local area. Making this a reality will present substantial challenges to central and local government, LEPs and the business community, but the economic prize is too important for them not to meet those challenges head on.”
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