7 August 2018

In what is described as a step change in its approach to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the Government has set out a series of reforms intended to “supercharge economic growth and drive forward investment in local businesses across the country”.

The proposed changes to the leadership, governance and accountability of England’s 38 LEPs will see them increasing both their diversity and transparency.

In its report “Strengthened Local Enterprise Partnerships” (available at https://bit.ly/2LmYNn7), the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) states that up to £20 million of additional funding will be made available between 2018-19 and 2019-20 to support the implementation of the changes.

The additional money will help LEPs to consult widely and transparently on appointing new leaders and improving the diversity of their boards, with the aim of ensuring that women comprise at least a third of LEP board members by 2020 and half by 2023.

LEPs will be able to submit proposals to amend their geographical coverage, including by addressing situations in which areas currently served overlap.

Responding to the report for the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Mike Spicer welcomed its clarification of the role of LEPs. A number of the proposals could help improve the relationship between local firms and the Partnerships he said.

“At their core, LEPs exist to ensure that the public and private sectors come together to develop a long-term plan, allocate funding, and get the fundamentals right for local businesses to grow,” Mr Spicer explained.

They must not be distracted from that core purpose, he warned, either by local politics “or by Whitehall process overload”.