Robert Hough, chairman designate of the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, has hit back at claims from Downtown in Business chairman Frank McKenna that the LEP will employ far too many staff.
McKenna said he was amazed that the LEP proposes 52 staff supported by further council officers. A vote of TMP members to dissolve the current structure and replace it with the LEP is due to take place on Friday. If approved, Hough, a non-executive director of Peel Group and chairman of the North West Development Agency, will take the seat of TMP chairman Rod Holmes, former project director for Liverpool One at Grosvenor, and TMP staff will transfer across to the new organisation.
McKenna added: "I am astonished that this staff-heavy organisation is being seriously suggested at a time when both the public and private sectors are facing major challenges in a time of austerity.
"The LEP is simply meant to be a commissioning body; an enabler, a facilitator. Clearly, some city region politicians are using this government-imposed entity to continue the wrong-headed approach of too many agencies delivering duplication and breeding confusion."
In response a spokesman for TMP said: "Robert Hough and his board are determined that the LEP will be more than a talking shop. It will give strategic leadership and facilitate and enable existing organisations and bespoke teams to deliver the desperately needed acceleration of economic growth. It is aware that the city region has far too few businesses, not enough business activity and not enough jobs. To deliver what is needed to meet these challenges and the high expectations of our communities and businesses, the LEP is taking over the resources of the Mersey Partnership including its membership, income and staff; and the private sector-led teams that are already delivering rapid growth in the key sectors and are on the way to creating 100,000 new jobs within the decade."
TMP serves several functions including operating the official tourist board for the city region, hotel and conference booking services, supporting growth in priority sectors such as low carbon, superport, creative industries and life sciences. TMP also produces economic research such as the annual economic review, the most recent of which was launched at an event last week.
McKenna went on: "There was an opportunity for us to clear a tier of the bureaucracy that has existed in Greater Liverpool for far too long, re-brand Liverpool Vision, extend its remit and make some much needed efficiency savings, whilst adopting a more business friendly structure in the process.
"Instead the old problems of Merseyside parochialism and the appetite to empire build have won the day over common sense."
McKenna said the Leeds LEP employs six people and Cheshire & Warrington just two staff.
He added: "TMP did at least have a small element of private sector funding through a membership scheme. But it would be inappropriate to expect local business to finance a government agency. Equally, if you are a Liverpool business, why would you want to invest in the LEP, when the city is engaging the private sector through its 'Liverpool Plan?'
"I hope our LEP board revisits this plan, and comes up with a more sensible way forward that can win the broad support of the business community. LEPs are supposed to be private sector-led after all."
Downtown Liverpool in Business was established in 2004 to provide leadership to the private sector by articulating the views of its members to the public sector agencies that govern the city.