Councils reveal concerns over LEPs

The Government's local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) are under-funded and unaccountable, according to a survey of council leaders.

LEPs decide what the priorities should be for investment in roads, buildings and facilities
LEPs decide what the priorities should be for investment in roads, buildings and facilities

LEPs are joint initiatives between local authorities and businesses, which decide what the priorities should be for investment in roads, buildings and facilities in an area.

The survey of English county council leaders found that, while LEPs helped deliver major infrastructure projects, there were concerns over the way decisions were made and how they groups were resourced.

The County Councils Network (CCN) survey received responses from 21 of the 37 authorities serving county areas in England.

More than three-quarters (76%) agreed or strongly agreed that LEPs were unaccountable while 62% believed they lacked sufficient devolved funds.

But 65% agreed or strongly agreed that their LEP allowed them to deliver major projects and 66% said the bodies allowed them to develop growth strategies across country borders.

Jim Harker, CCN spokesman for economic growth, said: " LEPs are here to stay and many have begun to realise some truly ambitious plans, but we cannot be complacent.

"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.

"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 gross value added.

"All areas should have the same chance to support the creation of prosperity in their communities."

A spokesman from the Department for Communities and Local Government 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 £4 billion through its 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."