Coalition’s flagship business scheme ‘failing’

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THE Coalition’s flagship local enterprise partnerships – set up to try and boost the economy – are failing with some not even recognised by the Government yet, a new report has claimed.

Centre for Cities, a research and policy unit, said some of the LEPs are yet to have their boards recognised by the Government, only two have produced a long-term strategic plan and five do not have a website.

The report also highlighted high levels of bureaucracy such as large boards or associated focus groups which it warned could slow decision-making.

Andrew Carter, director of policy and research at Centre for Cities, said: “While a handful of LEPs are doing really well, many are struggling to come close to meeting the objectives that were set to them by Government this time last year.

“One of our biggest concerns is the spatial geography of some LEPs does not match the economic and political geography, creating real barriers to effective influence over local economies.

“This means that many of the LEPs seem to be falling at the first hurdle, before boards are recognised or strategies considered.”

The report’s conclusions have, however, been dismissed by the Government which claims LEPs are already improving economic conditions around the UK.

A Government spokesman said: “This report is simply not true. Local enterprise partnerships now cover 98 per cent of all businesses in England. They are breathing new life into local economies by driving forward innovative projects that are stimulating business growth and job creation because they know their area best.

“The Government believes local people, who really understand what is needed to drive local growth, should be at the helm and that is why each partnership decided its own boundary based on natural economic areas, and also decided where the 22 new Enterprise Zones should be located.”

The criticism comes as the Leeds City Region leaders board – made up of 11 local authorities – approved a plan put forward by its LEP for growth, which focused on cutting red tape.

Coun Peter Box, leader of Wakefield Council and chairman of the board, said: “These changes will not only reduce costs for our local businesses but will also save taxpayers money. It is a win-win situation.”