Thomas Bridge 06 May 2014

LEPs branded ‘unaccountable’ by council leaders

County councils have expressed concern that Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPS) are impenetrable, under funded and lack transparency.

A survey of county and county unitary authority leaders by the County Councils Network (CCN) has found over three quarters agree or strongly agree that LEPs are unaccountable.

Calling into question the future potential of the economic growth strategy, 62% of respondents said LEPs lack sufficient devolved funds while 42% disagree or strongly disagree with the idea that LEPs provide strong or inclusive decision-making.

Leaders highlighted that overlapping LEPs are thought of as particularly complex and difficult to work through.

However, further findings from the CCN survey reveal 43% of responding county leaders agree or strongly agree their LEPs will support the creation of new projects. Over half also stated the partnerships had significantly increased the availability of local training opportunities for young people.

‘LEPs need to streamline their decision-making while ensuring their work is tailored to local needs. Equally, they need the devolved funding and powers to get the job done,’ CCN spokesman for economic growth, Cllr Jim Harker, said.

‘The Local Growth Fund is a good start, but we need to see central Government devolving budgets where it makes sense to do so, particularly in areas like skills.’

‘We shouldn't risk creating a two speed recovery, particularly when county area economies generate over half of England’s GVA. All areas should have the same chance to support the creation of prosperity in their communities.’

Responding to the survey, a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: 'Local enterprise partnerships are proving their worth. Designed and run locally, in contrast to the distant and unwieldy Regional Development Agencies, they are accountable through the elected council that co-chairs them.

'Local enterprise partnerships are helping rebalance the economy so that it can achieve strong, lasting growth led by the private sector, and share prosperity across the country. The Government is investing £4bn through our growth programmes, supporting thousands of local businesses, securing billions in private sector investment, boosting skills and creating tens of thousands of much needed local jobs.'

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