A further £20m is to be made available for LEPs to bid for over the next two financial years as one of four key recommendations made in the Strengthened Local Enterprise Partnerships review.
The changes are intended to build on the Government’s pledge in its Industrial Strategy white paper to kickstart reform of LEPs, the public-private vehicles that replaced regional development agencies under the 2010-2015 coalition government.
Christine Gaskell, who chairs Cheshire & Warrington LEP and was a LEP panel review member, said: “LEPs welcome the conclusions and recommendations of the government’s review and the additional funding which will enable us to continue to play a pivotal role in building an ambitious programme for long-term local economic growth.
“The next step for LEPs is to work in tandem with government to deliver on all of the review’s recommendations in the coming months, many of which are already underway.
“But, as LEPs strengthen their capacity and capability in line with the recommendations of the review, it’s vital that they are underpinned by a matching commitment from the Government to equip us with the funding and the means to deliver truly local strategies that will grow the productivity of the people, firms and industries in our areas.”
The Government is looking to formalise and bring a clearer identity to the LEPs, which will be charged with delivering Local Industrial Strategies within the context of the national strategy. The £20m being made available will support LEPs in embedding evidence into their local strategies.
Also included in the proposals are that LEPs should consult widely and transparently when recruiting chairmen, and that board diversity should be improved. By 2020, the requirement will be that women make up a third of all LEP boards, with the expectation of equal representation by 2023.
LEPs will also be able to submit proposals to change their geographies, allowing those with overlapping boundaries to adjust.
Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: “This publication of the Strengthened Local Enterprise Partnerships policy represents a step change in approach for LEPs. We will continue our work to strengthen these leading institutions to develop ambitious strategies for growth and build an economy which is fit for the future.”
Jake Berry, local growth minister, added: “We’ve committed over £9bn to help LEPs through 3 rounds of Growth Deals to deliver on their investment priorities, while creating new and exciting economic opportunities for local businesses and communities across the country.
“This landmark shake-up of our local enterprise partnerships will help us deliver on our pledge to deliver over £12bn through the Local Growth Fund by 2021 while allowing LEPs to use their local knowledge to deliver inclusive growth.”
The first Local Industrial Strategies will be agreed with Government by March 2019, with the aim of every part of the country having a strategy in place by early 2020.
There are 38 LEPs, including Cheshire & Warrington, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Liverpool City Region. The North of England’s 11 LEPs are also now joined in NP11, a Government-funded board brought together to promote its Northern Powerhouse policy. Gaskell is vice-chair of NP11.
Under David Cameron’s governments, LEPs had a relatively free hand with their direction, but governance has become more ordered since. Each will now be required to submit an annual delivery plan and year end report.
The publication of the Industrial Strategy in November 2017 was a landmark, with the Prime Minister agreeing to a biannual meeting with a council of LEP chairs, the first of which took place in June.
The full Strengthened Local Enterprise Partnerships report is available to view online.