A week after the Commons Public Accounts Committee said LEPs were withholding money from local projects, government has decided to pay them £250,000 a year each to help them do their jobs properly.
An interim £5m funding package will be made available to the 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships – five in the North West – for the remainder of this financial year, worth an average of £128,000 apiece.
This will be followed by up to £250,000 per LEP per year for the following two years. This £24m pot could rise to £45m if LEPs can find other sources of cash to match it locally. Local Enterprise Partnerships are public-private advisory boards accountable to local authorities. The partnerships replaced the far larger Regional Development Agencies after the Coalition took power.
Michael Fallon, business and enterprise minister, said: "It is crucial we arm Local Enterprise Partnerships with the tools and resources they need to play a prominent role in delivering growth and jobs for their communities. This funding will help LEPs plan for the long term and ensure they can remain locally led instead of dependent on central government support.
"We need to ensure LEPs remain voluntary business and civic partnerships so they are in the best possible position to deliver sustainable growth and job creation in their areas.
"Already we are seeing LEPs across England delivering innovative schemes in their communities. This financial support will help the partnerships to continue this work."
The funding will be provided on a 50:50 basis by Department of Business Innovation & Skills and the Department for Communities & Local Government.
Both departments were scolded last week for seemingly not knowing how to handle the Regional Growth Fund, which tends to be handed down from Whitehall to LEPs to implement. The Commons Public Accounts Committee said in a report only £60m of RGF had reached front-line projects out of £1.4bn allocated in June 2010.
LEPs will be invited to bid for matched overhead funding for 2013/14 and 2014/15, setting out how they would be able to offer a cash match from public or private resources. Details on the scope of the match will be discussed with LEPs shortly.