LEPs consider futures amid review

By Dan Peters | 27 April 2021

Local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) are considering their futures after ministers and officials signed off the terms of reference of a widescale government-led review.

The review comes after the Government snubbed LEPs, preferring local authorities to take the lead role in coordinating bids for the levelling up, community renewal and community ownership funds.

LEPs are largely resigned to the latest government policy shift, under which local authorities will take over decision-making and delivery responsibilities for local growth capital funding.

The terms of reference for the review, which the Government has not confirmed will be published, suggest it will be divided into two phases.

In the first phase of the review, officials are expected to look at whether the number of LEPs should be reduced, how they should be organised, what they should be responsible for and what they should be trying to achieve.

The second phase of the review is expected to examine how diverse and representative LEPs are, their relationship with government and how they will be funded.

Concerned LEPs have expressed fears that employees and board members will quit due to the uncertainty around the organisations’ long-term funding and influence.

A number of LEPs are now expected to look at the possibility of developing a new funding model based on fees or subscription as they put a brave face on the impending shake-up.

The Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP has insisted the review represented ‘an evolution and not an extinction’ while an enthusiastic note from the LEP Network to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said it provided an ‘opportunity to refocus these unique partnerships to help the country emerge from the pandemic fitter, greener and more inclusive’.

A report on the findings of the review is expected to be provided to ministers later this year, with a new operating model at least partly in place by April 2022.

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