Local Enterprise Partnerships Review
- Meeting of Economic Growth, Environment and Development (Overview & Scrutiny) Committee, Tuesday, 22nd January, 2019 6.00 pm (Item 47.)
The Committee received a report on the current Government review of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). The review was looking at a number of issues including legal status of LEP’s, governance arrangements and also geographical boundaries between LEP’s. It was reported that presently Lichfield District Council was a member of two LEPs which were the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP (GBSLEP) and the Stoke and Staffordshire LEP (SSLEP). Members noted that being a member of two LEPs allowed access to two Growth Hubs that help support local businesses and the ability to access funding for projects from both.
It was reported that the Government in terms of geography was keen to see the removal of any overlaps which had implications for authorities like Lichfield. The Governments argument is that removal of overlaps would provide for more clarity and assist in the allocation of monies. The Committee was informed that the Government had left it to the LEPs to deal with this matter and agree a way forward. However GBSLEP wished to keep the status quo as it had developed strong working relationships with its authority partners and had support of businesses yet SSLEP wished to have a geography based on the county boundary.
Some Members were in agreement that membership should remain with GBLEP as it is based on a functional economic area and where businesses consider the boundaries of markets and customers to be. There was concern however from other Members that there were bigger projects underway in the GBSLEP area which would divert public funds and Lichfield may not be considered as a high priority. There was also concern that Lichfield could be considered as part of a wider Birmingham area.
It was asked what authority would make the final decision if no agreement could be reached and it was reported that the Government would have the ultimate say however this may be delayed due to other priorities namely Brexit.
It was noted that the Leader of the Council was working with the LGA and the other local authorities to express the view of keeping the current set up with LEPs. There was no need to change things and questions had been raised as to why the Government was so wedded to the idea of boundary changes.
The Committee asked what could be done to plan for whatever the Government decides. Members were advised that at the present time it is not clear as to whether the Government will force through decisions however if it did, the Council needed to be mindful of the good working relationships which had been formed with partners (and which could continue irrespective of LEP membership) and the potential for new relationships to be formed. The latter being particularly relevant in terms of accessing future funding pots.
It was agreed to keep the item on the work programme for the March meeting to receive an update and consider options if a decision of which LEP to be in is required or if the Council deems it not wishing to be in a LEP at all.
RESOLVED: 1) That the LEP Review and it’s progress be noted;
2) That the potential implications for Lichfield District of the decision to remove geographical overlaps between individual LEP’s be noted; and
3) That an update be submitted to the Committee at it’s March meeting.