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The 39 Steps
October 1, 2013
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39 Steps

Will the 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships provide Economic Growth?

My thanks to Mark Pollock, Planning and Economic Regeneration Consultant for sharing his thoughts with ABA Viewpoint on current developments within the English Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP’s) movement.

Although initially criticised for a lack of resource, funding and strategic vision LEP’s are now emerging as a key economic delivery vehicle.

Led by the private sector, with public sector support LEP’s predominately work at a sub-regional level across functional economic areas and local authority boundaries with the aim of creating powerful economic alliances. There are now 39 LEP’s all at varying stages of development and the Government is currently putting in place a range of measures designed to allow them to access more power and funding while at the same time bringing some standardisation to the processes involved.

In June the Treasury published “Investing in Britain’s Future” which sets out the Government’s plans to bring forward major infra-structure projects for transport, energy, housing and digital communications. These projects will be described in more detail by a revised National Infrastructure Plan due to be published as part of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

At a more local level “Investing in Britain’s Future” makes reference to LEP’s and in particular to the establishment of the Single Local Growth Fund (SLGF) which from 2015-20 will have a budget of £2 billion pa. LEP’s will be able to access this funding through a process based on the strength of their yet to be completed Strategic Economic Plans (SEP’s).

This proposal originates from Lord Heseltine report “No stone unturned in the pursuit of growth”, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/34648/12-1213-no-stone-unturned-in-pursuit-of-growth.pdf which was published in November 2012. However, the amount committed falls short of the approximately £10 billion a year advocated by Lord Heseltine.

In July the Government produced guidance, “Growth Deals”, on how LEP’s should go about producing SEP’s, how they will be taken into account by Government and on the time-table for the production of the required document. It is intended that there should be a negotiated “growth deal” with every LEP, building on the success of City Deals. Growth deals are intended to deliver new freedoms, flexibilities and influence over resources from Government; and share in the Single Local Growth Fund.

Although there is no set format the guidance issued makes it clear that there is an expectation that Strategic Economic Plans should reflect the themes of housing, transport and skills. They should also be well evidenced and include the following key elements:-

  • Commitment to growth that is sustainable for the whole LEP area, including up-to-date local plans which set a positive framework for growth;

  • Alignment or pooling of local authority capital and revenue spend on growth;

  • Effective collaboration on economic development activities such as merging teams where appropriate to do so, and,

  • Synergy with other programmes such as European Funds (£5 billion for the period 2014-2020), City Deals, Enterprise Zones and revolving funds such as the Growing Places Fund.

Strategic Economic Plans will also need to demonstrate that they are deliverable and supported by strong partnerships, particularly with the business community. There should be a clear and deliverable growth vision with measurable input and output measures, and robust and rigorous plans for monitoring and evaluation.

Assessment of SEP’s by the Government will be around three core themes:

  • Ambition and rationale for intervention

  • Value for money, and,

  • Delivery and risk

LEP’s are now in the process of drawing-up their Strategic Economic Plans with the deadline for final submissions set for April 2014 and implementation from April 2015. There is therefore not a huge amount of time to deliver a successful document which will have a critical role to play in the future economic well-being of each LEP area.

This work is being undertaken while national guidance is still evolving and when LEP’s themselves are also still maturing with in some instances limited resources.

In my opinion there are a number of critical “building blocks” in achieving a successful “growth deal” including: –

  • Alignment of all the key stakeholders across the LEP area behind an agreed strategic vision for growth, particularly the business sector and local planning authorities. This will require strong leadership and will I suspect be harder to achieve in the larger multi-centre/rural LEP areas with two tier local government than in the unitary authority City region LEP areas which have more established joint working arrangements;

  • Clear evidence that there will be sustainable and quality job creation supported by the right transport, housing, communication and educational infrastructure to achieve a lasting positive economic legacy;

  • Assurances that growth achieved will be inclusive to all sections of communities within LEP areas particularly young people and that levels of ambition and aspiration will be raised;

  • Effective programme and project management to ensure timely delivery, value for money and risk management, and finally,

  • An ability to “tune into” the emerging national growth agenda and to shape and follow Government guidance which is now developing at pace.

To achieve all of the above within the tight time-scales involved will be challenging and the LEP Network will need to work closely to ensure that each partnership has the right resources and skills in place to make a real difference to economic recovery.”

About Mark Pollock, MRTPI – www.markpollockplanning.co.uk

MarkPollock

Mark is based in Somerset and is a Chartered Town Planner and a Prince 2 qualified project manager. He has been involved with various aspects of planning, regeneration and project delivery for over 30 years. Mark became a freelance consultant in 2009 developing specialist knowledge of the Energy Sector where he has experience of planning for a major Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) and associated developments. In this role Mark defined impacts and mitigation and then helped to negotiate appropriate obligations as part of a ground breaking Section 106 agreement. This task included involvement with the preparation of a Local Impact Report for the formal examination stage, particularly with regard to socio-economic issues, including education.