The Government has reaffirmed its support for local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) ahead of this autumn’s local recovery and devolution White Paper.
Some have suggested that LEPs could be for the chop in the White Paper after criticism of their effectiveness.
A report last week led by former chief of staff to Sajid Javid when he was local government secretary said LEPs lacked the ‘democratic mandate required to oversee billions of pounds of public money’.
Many councillors have complained about LEPs, with a recent survey of south-east members finding that just one in five felt involved in what their partnership was doing while only 29% felt informed.
In a report in March 2018, the Public Accounts Committee, which communities secretary Robert Jenrick was a member of at the time, said the role, function and purpose of LEPs in the context of the creation of directly-elected mayors and combined authorities was unclear.
However, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: ‘LEPs are playing an important role in supporting our economic recovery from COVID-19, including through their engagement with businesses across their areas.
‘The forthcoming local recovery and devolution White Paper will set out our localised regional economic strategy to level up all parts of the country.’
A LEP source said: ‘I think that the Government has reluctantly come to the conclusion that LEPs are the only game in town.
'There’s just no other private-public partnership.
‘I know there’s considerable disquiet that the LEPs are of varying quality.
'Every other form of public body has to be accountable.
'Why aren’t LEPs?’
But South East Midlands LEP chief executive, Hilary Chipping, said there was now much more transparency around and scrutiny of the organisations.
She said: ‘A couple of years ago LEPs went through a difficult patch.
'I think we’ve gone through that.
'I think LEPs are in a much better place than a couple of years ago.
‘I think there are perhaps three or four LEPs that have some improvement to make.
'The converse of that is that virtually all LEPs are in a very good place though there’s always room for improvement in any organisation.’