March 16, 2023 1.00 pm This story is over 15 months old

Future of LEP uncertain as government announces it could withdraw support

Government consulting on LEP futures

The organisation in charge of leading Lincolnshire’s economic development has said it is “business as usual” after the government confirmed it could withdraw support from Local Enterprise Partnerships from 2024.

During his budget speech on Wednesday, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the government was “minded” to transfer responsibilities of partnerships, which includes the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (GLLEP), to local authorities from April of next year.

It is unclear which Lincolnshire authority would be positioned to do so.

LEPs, which are made up of government, community and business leaders, play a huge role in directing economic priorities and promoting the growth and creation of local jobs across the nation.

“The government is committed to empowering democratically elected local leaders at every opportunity,” said Mr Hunt.

“To this end, the government intends for the functions of local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) to be delivered by local government in the future.”

He said the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities would consult alongside the Department for Business and Trade before making a decision, with updated policies and next steps set to be confirmed by summer.

The 38 LEP nationwide followed the abolition of the previous nine regional development agencies across the UK in 2011.

Originally a voluntary organisation, the LEPs initially struggled to make progress, however, government later allocated funds to the organisations and made several changes.

A statement from the GLLEP said: “It’s business as usual for the Greater Lincolnshire LEP and we will wait and see what is in the consultation that the Government will be undertaking before the summer.”

Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership has more than 120 members on its boards with more than 100 of those directly from the business community.

The partnership has been involved in numerous projects since its creation, including providing and guiding on funding opportunities, investing in new educational facilities covering food, science centres, health and digital skills, along with road works such as the A46 Riseholme roundabout.

Justin Brown, assistant director for growth at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “The government had previously given an indication that they planned to move away from Local Enterprise Partnerships administering funding in local areas, so this wasn’t an unexpected announcement.

“Government departments are intending to consult on this proposal and we’ll need to wait until they provide more information before we know how funding may be distributed, and what the governance and transfer arrangements would be.

“What has worked really well through our Greater Lincolnshire LEP is the involvement of more than 200 businesses who help to decide what is needed to grow and advance our county economy. They have helped shape investment strategy and priorities and helped develop a clear direction to many of our ambitions going forward. We will be looking at how we maintain this valuable input in any future arrangements.”

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