Thomas Bridge 09 May 2014

LEPs should see radical overhaul, report says

Labour’s former treasury and housing minister has called for a radical and accelerated devolution of power to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

A major report from John Healey and think-tank the Smith Institute published today calls on the Government to establish a smaller number of stronger, business led LEPs, which hold extra powers and more significant independent funds.

Making Local Economies Matter argues growth under the now defunct Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) compares favourably against the LEPs that replaced them.

However, Healey warned against ‘sweeping away the current structures’ and instead recommended drawing on the experience of both RDAs and LEPs to make strategies more fit for the future.

In a joint forward, Labour’s shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, and shadow infrastructure minister, Lord Andrew Adonis, support the report and call for ‘stronger local government supported by more effective central government’.

Healey said: ‘Now that growth has finally returned, the central challenge is how to build a balanced and lasting recovery across the whole country. For the next Labour government, jobs and growth generated locally must be an essential part of economic policy.

‘It is clear that regions and cities need a better framework to support businesses and local economic growth but going back to square one with each change of Government is no recipe for success.’

Responding to the report, Society of Local Authority Chief Executives director, Graeme McDonald, welcomed calls for LEPs to be ‘better matched to functional economic geographies’ but argued ‘we need to go further in providing greater freedoms to councils over their own finances, including borrowing for infrastructure and housing investment’.

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