Local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) need more substantial funding and greater powers if they are to succeed, a report overseen by new local government minister Brandon Lewis prior to his appointment has warned.
The report by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on local growth, launched last night, also says LEPs should “collaborate across boundaries, particularly on strategic planning, transport, housing and infrastructure”.
LEPs were set up two years ago as business-led, mostly self-financing public-private bodies to replace regional developments agencies in driving economic growth at a local level.
The APPG report says that progress has been made, but it includes a 12-point plan with recommendations for the government, local authorites and LEPs outlining how the bodies can be more effective.
A key recommendations is that the government “should commit to providing a modest amount of core funding” to LEPs so that they can have “a basic level of staffing” and “act independently”.
After they were established, the government announced that all 38 LEPs could bid from a £4million ‘capacity fund’ to help their development. They have also been able to spend £500 million of Growing Places Fund cash on local infrastructure projects.
The report also asks the government to negotiate City Deal-style “local growth deals” to devolve funding and powers to LEP areas, as well as to allow LEPs “to play a greater coordinating role on work and skills provision in their areas”.
The APPG was chaired by Lewis, a Conservative, until he was appointed last week as a local government minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government.
“Economic growth and getting the economy moving is the only game in town so the recommendations of this report are both timely and hugely important.
Much has been achieved but the findings of this report show that there are clearly still gaps and weaknesses that all parties including government must address as a matter of urgency.
I would urge government to consider and accept these recommendations so that improvements can be taken forward.”
The event featured a keynote speech from communities secretary Eric Pickles, who described the report as “absolutely excellent”.
“I’m happy to implement most of the recommendations.
My advice is the same as I gave when LEPs started: be bold, be brave, look for innovation and don’t look for the consent of government.”
Pickles said the government’s Growing Places Fund was a “turning point” for LEPs, because it allowed them to spend central government money themselves.
More than 80 individuals and organisations responded to the three-month inquiry, which was coordinated by Westminster City Council.
The report can be found here.
Source: Regeneration and Renewal.com