Leaders of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership have welcomed new assurances from a Government minister over the long-term future of the organisations.
Neil O’Brien MP, the Minister for Levelling Up, told a parliamentary debate LEPs would continue to exist – particularly in areas where elected mayors and combined authorities were not likely to be introduced for some time – and that they had played ‘a very important role in unlocking local economic potential and growth’.
Mr O’Brien said that he was inspired by the work of LEPs and confirmed that the Government would ensure they had ‘funding certainty’ very shortly.
His comments came during a Westminster Hall Debate about ‘The Status of Local Enterprise Partnerships’ called in the wake of the Government’s review of LEPs and growth hubs.
Mandy Thorn, chair of the Marches LEP, said she was pleased the role of the partnerships in driving economic growth across the country had been recognised.
“It was wonderful to hear throughout the debate the numerous examples of the extra value that LEPs have added to their regional economies throughout the last ten years and the enormous amount of good they have done across the country.
“For example, in the past year alone 1.6million businesses have turned to their local LEP for advice and support, LEPs have helped place more than 3,000 business volunteers into schools to support careers work and have launched more than 100 individual schemes to give local businesses the best chance of survival.
“More than 2,000 business leaders sit on LEPs nationwide – with all the Marches board members doing so on a voluntary, unpaid basis. These new assurances should give them the confidence to continue playing their part knowing that their contribution is valued and their voices are being listened to by policy makers.”
Rachel Laver, Marches LEP chief executive, said the debate had shown the power of the partnership model.
“Time and again reference was made to the convening power of LEPs – our ability to bring together the business community with partners in local authority, the wider public sector, education and the third sector – in a way no other organisation can.
“That unique working model has undoubtedly enabled all the partners to deliver far more over the last ten years through working together than by working alone.
“We welcome the minister’s assurances that LEPs – and particularly those in areas such as the Marches with no combined authority or regional mayor – will have a central role to play for years to come.”
The debate – called by Sally-Ann Hart MP – was the first Parliamentary discussion on LEPs since the Levelling-Up White Paper was published and prompted a number of wide-ranging comments among MPs.
Mr O’Brien said:
“LEPs now have certainty about their overall role in the future and how they will fit together with mayoral combined authorities (MCAs).
“LEPs have played a very important role in unlocking local economic potential and growth over recent years. Using the convening power that so many Members have talked about, partnerships have forged lasting and productive relationships between business, education and local government. At the same time, they have brought that crucial private sector perspective into local decision making, and indeed into combined authorities.”