Local business partnerships should be ‘integrated’ into combined authority-county agreements, the upgrade white paper said, offering a long-awaited indication of the future direction of council-business partnerships .
The announcement was interpreted by the coordinating body of the LEPs network as a “clear affirmation” of the importance of the 39 LEPs and gave them the opportunity to co-design the future of the partnerships.
“The UK government encourages the integration of LEPs and their boards into [mayoral combined authorities]the [Greater London Authority] and county agreements, where they exist,” the white paper states.
“Where a decentralization agreement does not yet exist, LEPs will continue to play their vital role in supporting local businesses and the local economy.”
First introduced in 2010, LEPs are non-statutory bodies responsible for local economic growth in England. They bring together the private sector, local authorities and voluntary academic institutions.
In some areas, such as Greater Manchester, the LEP covers the same area as the mayor’s combined authority. However, in others such as North of Tyne, the limits of combined authority and LEP are not the same.
The white paper says that for areas where a deconcentration agreement covers part of a LEP but not all of that area, the future structure will be considered “on a case-by-case basis”.
Mark Bretton, President of the LEP Network, said: “Today’s upgrade white paper marks an important milestone for LEP by including our role in the draft policy for the first time.
“We are now committed to working with government to bring this new role on board to support the ambitions of the Upgrading White Paper – with the fundamental principle that local businesses continue to have a place in local decision-making. “
Localis chief executive Jonathan Werran said: ‘During the darkest days of lockdown 2020, LEPs proved their worth in their ability to design and deliver ready-to-use strategic economic recovery plans’ , did he declare.
“As Localis recently argued, the government should invent something that looks, talks and acts like LEPs to ensure the upgrade in any case.”