Thomas Bridge 03 September 2014

Calls for LEPs shake up amid ‘widespread confusion’ over purpose

A major shake up of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) must take place to address ‘widespread confusion’ surrounding their role, groups have warned.

The Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have urged the Government to take ‘a fresh look’ at the role of LEPs after a report revealed national uncertainty over their purpose in driving growth.

A survey of local government representatives, businesses and LEPs found the public-private bodies are thought of as ‘too remote’ from their local economies – with some local authorities feeling ‘out of the loop’.

While LEPs hold influence over £17bn of public funding, confusion over their role has led to a lack of accountability and transparency – according to CLS and the FSB.

However the poll also revealed only 18% of LEPs believe that they are adequately resourced.

‘LEPs have had a short life, but misunderstandings around their purpose and usefulness abound,’ said Neil McInroy, chief executive of CLES.

‘They have been slow to get going, been stifled by centralism with a reluctance to devolve powers, responsibilities, or funding, and tend to be dominated by big business with little affinity to place.

‘They must continue but we need fundamental change. LEPs should embed small business more effectively into their structures and activities and join up far more effectively than is currently the case with local government over economic development and wider social issues,’ McInroy added.

John Allan, national chairman of the FSB, added: ‘Because the sums of money involved will increase substantially, it is vital that LEPs are more accountable and transparent so local authorities, businesses and the public can be confident they will deliver for the local economy and are using taxpayer funds effectively.’

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