Are the UK’s Local Enterprise Partnerships in danger?

By Ian Mean Business West Gloucestershire director
Are the UK's Local Enterprise Partnerships in danger?

Are the UK’s Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in danger?

“The strength of the voice of  business in Gloucestershire is something which we should be  proud of in this county.

So, when there are rumours that the forthcoming government spending review later in October might stifle that strong business voice we should be concerned.”

Background: The UK’s Local Enterprise Partnership network was established by government in 2010. They are non-statutory bodies and must be chaired by a businessperson with at least half of members from the private sector. This helps keep the focus on business. There are 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships across England. Each helps determine local economic priorities and drives economic growth. To support young businesses and entrepreneurs, every Local Enterprise Partnership has its own Growth Hub where advisors signpost any business to the specific information and support they need.
The government is currently carrying out a review of the UK’s Local Enterprise Partnership network and according to a report in the Municipal Journal, it is withholding the full year of core funding from local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) in a move which looks like the organisations are facing major change. Amid uncertainty around the future of LEPs, the Government has decided to only provide the partnerships with an initial six months of funding in 2021-22 – worth £250,000 for each organisation.

“I must declare an interest here because I am on the main board of GFirst LEP, the local enterprise partnership for Gloucestershire charged with supporting business and driving the local economy.

“I don’t get paid. I do it because I love working with businesses and particularly encouraging young people and supporting  fledgling companies.

“Editing newspapers here in the county for 15 years, I have been proud of how our further education  colleges, including Gloucestershire College and South Gloucestershire & Stroud College– have been some of the country’s  biggest trailblazers in apprenticeships.

“This is a county of SMEs-small and medium size businesses- who rely on the consistent support of their local enterprise partnership working with our district councils.

“If this support is diluted in any way, the Gloucestershire economy as a whole will suffer.

“Individual firms will suffer and as a result, families will suffer too.

“Our companies here are the life and breath of the county and we must ensure they are not sidelined by government.

“As I write this, I have just finished chairing the GFirstLEP Business Membership group with Chamber of Commerce colleagues, the Federation of Small Business and the University of Gloucestershire.

“A key issue at our meeting was how we will seek to help those who lose their jobs after Furlough ends next week. How will we combine to find work for them and re-training?

“There is no magic wand to save jobs. No quick fix to retrain people in their 50s.

“It requires partnerships of businesses and organisations like GFirstLEP and my organisation, Business West, working together for the common good.

“I have just written to all our county MPs encouraging them to ensure that the voice of business is not stifled.

“After all, our workforce are their constituents and don’t they owe that to them?”

GFirst has set out what it’s doing and how it’s helping drive economic growth in a new video which you can watch here…