LEPs Devolution or Delegation – fascinating insight by Alex Pratt @39LEPs and @BTVLEP

Devolution or Delegation?

Minister with responsibility for LEPs Greg Clarke spoke briefly to LEPs at the recent LEP Network Conference, where he was questioned about his “Minister for Cities” title. The LEPs provided a few suggestions.  He has his work set out with the Department for Education saying it has no relevance to growth, most interventions at the level of the firm being managed centrally by BIS, and the recent Witty Review which recommends a more centralist approach to technology support, university engagement, innovation and national programmes like UKTI.

The 39 LEPs

The LEP Chairs recently met with UKTI, TSB and ADEPT. We also agreed to merge with the current LEP Network from April 2014 to create a new single collective body accountable to the LEP Chairs and joint-funded by the LEPs and Central Government.

‘Keep Turning the Stones’

After many weeks of planning, members of ADEPT’s Management Board met with representatives of the 39 LEP Chairs at the British Library earlier this month. In this magnificent building both sides reflected on the progress made since the publication late last year of Lord Heseltine’s report, ‘No Stone Unturned in Pursuit of Growth’. Lord Heseltine’s ambition was for Government to give strong support to the localism agenda, to reverse the centralising trend of the past century and unleash the dynamic potential of local economies.

There was strong agreement between the LEP business leaders and ADEPT that the £2bn being made available to LEPs in 2015/16 was not on the scale proposed by Lord Heseltine. Nor had all Government Departments welcomed letting go of budget and responsibility with open arms, and indeed a significant part of this money was already intended for local authorities anyway. We reflected there was a danger that shifting Transport and New Homes Bonus Funding from Local Authority to LEPs would not only fail to ‘unleash the dynamic potential’ of LEPs but potentially damage growing local relationships. Both sides are a pragmatic bunch though and they intend to make the best possible use of the resources coming their way in the next financial year.

Before parting it was agreed that ADEPT and the LEP Chairs would keep in touch and work jointly at the national and local level where it was mutually beneficial. The next Autumn Statement seems like a good time for us both to remind Government about the recommendations in the Heseltine Review yet to be implemented by Government. We can also share best practice across England on what works and doesn’t work when it comes to implementing LEP’s Strategic Economic Plans, as well as jointly commissioning research and policy thinking in areas of common interest. Watch this space!

To find out more about Ngage Solutions Ltd go to www.ngagesolutions.co.uk, and for ADEPT go to www.adeptnet.org.uk.

Neil Gibson is the Strategic Director at Buckinghamshire County Council, Non-Executive Director & Chairman of Ngage Solutions Ltd, and Secretary & Treasurer of ADEPT.

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