LEPs — ‘loose associations’ or ‘formal legal entities’?

Further to this post, Steve Walker at ART has drawn my attention to this informative account in the Local Government Chronicle online of how the battle for LEPs — the Local Enterprise Partnerships which will take over many of the functions of the closing RDAs — is shaping up.

The LGC claims to have uncovered tensions in Whitehall, with distinct differences of opinion between Cable’s Dept for Business, Innovation & Skills and Pickles’ Dept for Communities & Local Government regarding not just the shape and nature of LEPs but also the freedom individual partnerships will have to determine how they ‘do’ LEPs.

LEPs are currently expected to share something like £1bn between them — 65% less than the combined RDAs’ budgets — and consequently many consider the LEPs debate somewhat academic in that they will not be rich sources of finance. The issue, then, if we are realistic, is not just about what LEPs will do and the powers they will have, but how little it will require in order for them to be able to operate effectively.

But the real interest, I suspect, certainly for onlookers to this debate, is that LEPs have become a canary in the mine issue — capable of indicating whether or not the government really does believe its own rhetoric of openness, self-determination and non-centralisation… We shall see. At the moment the canary is still singing…but we are listening closely…

There are some interesting comments below — Kevin Maton’s (SEWM) add useful information, do take a look.

  1. Nick Temple Reply

    Thanks for noting this Alan: really helpful

  2. Kevin Maton Reply

    There are lots of LEP ‘interpretations’ and rumours circulating, fuelled by the lack of detail from the Government. It has been suggested that this is deliberate and that the invitation made to LAs and CoCs to send an expression of interest to form a LEP, is to enable Govt to gather some ideas for what a LEP can/should do.
    The £1bn is for the REgional Growth Fund which is I think over 2 years, and works out at about £55m per region per year which is a lot less than the £300m+ for each RDA. Crucially the RGF is something that each LEP can submit bids to, it is not for funding that is available to a LEP. Private sector led partnerships can bid separately directly to the RGF and ultimately, Michael Hesleltine will have a lot of say in decisions on these bids. That is whether they are from LEPs or a direct bid.
    At this stage, running costs for a LEP will have to be found from within Council and Chamber budgets very much limiting their role.
    Please contibute if I have got any of this information wrong, as things do change very quickly.

    • Alun Severn Reply

      Kevin — Thanks, this is helpful info.

  3. Chris England Reply

    We are really missing a trick if the default start point for LEPs is with local government. They all have economic development teams, economic regeneration directorates, staff, budgets, resources etc etc etc and how effective have they been to date? Some are good, some really poor. What makes anyone think LEPs, led by local authorities, are going to do any good at all?
    If the new Government really wants to live up to the rhetoric it should preclude LAs from any executive LEP function. As for the ‘loose association’ vs ‘formal legal entity’ debate, vested interests will obviously prefer loose associations – easily manipulated, easily controlled, easy to pack with the ‘right’ people – to a formal legal entity. Presumably LEPs should be serving some form of community interest? I would have thought it was obvious how the should be structured.

Leave a Reply