Two years after they were established, the new local government minister Brandon Lewis has said that Local Enterprise Partnerships [LEPs] need core funding and greater powers if they are to succeed.
A 12-point plan for LEPs,by the all-party parliamentary group on local growth says they should collaborate across boundaries on strategic planning, transport, housing and infrastructure.
It also says that the government should commit to providing a modest amount of core funding so that LEPs can have "a basic level of staffing" and "act independently". Currently they are operating on a shoestring and many rely heavily on voluntary labour and contributions from local authorities.
Perhaps mindful of the not entirely justified reputation for excess that the Regional Development Agencies developed, the government was careful not to lavish money on LEPs when they were established. All 38 LEPs were allowed to bid for funding from a £4million 'capacity fund' to help their development but this was a drop in the ocean compared to the RDA budgets measured in £billions.
The report also asks the government to negotiate City Deal-type 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.
Brandon Lewis said: "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”.
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