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Local Enterprise Partnerships - our view

August 25, 2010 9:21 AM

The Liberal Democrat Group has responded to recent reports about Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) in the East Midlands and specifically one in Leicestershire. Whilst no final proposal has been made, the Liberal Democrat opposition group has highlighted its initial view.

Simon Galton, Group Leader said: "there have been lots of conflicting reports about Leicestershire joining with Northamptonshire, Warwickshire or even Solihull. But I think its important to understand what these LEP's are intended to do.

After the election I wrote to Vince Cable and Eric Pickles to outline my view that the Regional Development Agencies (RDA's) should be abolished and a more local and accountable alternative developed. Although I cannot claim any credit for the outcome, I believe the Government's decision to completely shut down the RDA's by 2012, and replace them with LEPs is the right one.

According to a letter I have received from Eric Pickles, LEPs are a business led mechanism to generate investment and opportunity for local business to create jobs in smaller areas than the old Regional Development Agencies. His letter clearly states how Local Enterprise Partnerships: "will cover natural economic areas that make sense to local people and businesses".

The benefits of LEPs in my opinion are that they could be more flexible to local circumstances and needs and are not a political tool that Council Leaders can control. Again as Mr Pickles states LEPs are: "an opportunity for local authorities and businesses to work together to bring about the right conditions for economic growth in their areas."

The biggest issue of contention has been whether Leicestershire should submit a bid for an LEP with other Counties or confine it to Leicester and Leicestershire. For a LEP to succeed it must the have the support of the business community in Leicester and Leicestershire and that's why there have been concerns that David Parsons, the Leader of the County Council, approached the issue in the wrong way by trying to join with other Counties like Northamptonshire, without gathering the support of all the key players like the Chamber of Commerce and the City Council.

After strong objections and concerns from several key organisations to initial proposals; I am pleased a bid is now being developed that has the backing of the Local Chamber of Commerce. At this stage we need to play to our local strengths and simply building partnerships with other Counties could create the impression that politics is more important than jobs.