Region prepares for Government talks over Level 2 County Deal
Interim Chair of LLEP Board says work will continue with all partners
LLEP offers support to local councils on Shared Prosperity Fund bids
Interim Chair Andy Reed OBE has reiterated LLEP support for local partners as they move forward in negotiations with Government over a proposed County Deal for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.
The LLEP will continue to work closely with the local authorities as they reach the best settlement for the local economy during talks over a potential Level 2 deal.
Leicestershire was one of nine areas to be invited to bid for a County Deal when the Government published its Levelling Up White Paper in February.
The extent of powers and funding to be devolved under County Deals will be pegged at one of three levels depending upon local circumstances – with Level 3 representing the greatest devolution of responsibilities.
Government requires Level 3 bids to have what it terms a Functional Economic Area. In the LLEP area this would have meant both Leicester and Leicestershire councils, with the possible addition of Rutland, operating under a single regional Mayor.
The first stage of negotiations with Government has concluded without agreement being reached for a Level 3 bid.
Further negotiations will now take place over a proposed Level 2 agreement based on a non-mayoral combined authority in which Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland’s three upper-tier councils work together on regional projects.
Leicestershire County Council Leader Nick Rushton last week told councillors that the county council would continue working with all partners, including the LLEP.
Mr Reed, Interim Chair of the LLEP Board, said:
We must accept the situation and that the region at least has the opportunity of bidding for a Level 2 Deal.
As such, the LLEP will continue to work closely with partners including county, city and district councils to reach the best agreement for our local economy.
The Levelling Up White Paper suggested that the future role of LEPs may change under County Deals. For example, existing LEP powers over spending on local infrastructure, such as large transport and building projects, could potentially be devolved to local authorities under the terms of a County Deal.
Government has stressed that LEPs will continue to play an important role. This could include serving as a business voice, managing skills and apprenticeships, or running growth hubs to increase productivity among small businesses. The LLEP has already committed to supporting Government as it introduces its Levelling Up agenda.
Meanwhile, the Government’s £2.6billion UK Shared Prosperity Fund launched in April and will start accepting its first funding submissions in June. It replaces EU structural funds and is designed to devolve funding to local authorities to invest in communities, local business, and people and skills.
Much investment in these areas has been delivered by the LLEP over the last decade and it is now in discussions with partners as they work together to achieve the ambitions of the 12 Missions set out in the Levelling Up White Paper.
Mr Reed said:
As we await further clarity on County Deal, we will continue working with partners to invest funding in infrastructure and projects as we make our area more innovative, sustainable and inclusive.
We will also continue working hard to ensure the voice of business is heard locally and nationally and that its opinions and ideas help shape what a good deal would look like for the Leicestershire economy.
Mr Reed said the LLEP remains focussed on supporting the best deal possible for local business and on integrating any future County Deal with minimum disruption for services. He added:
There is still a long way to go with the County Deal process and final details will be months and years down the line.
In the meantime, we are very aware of the extremely difficult economic climate residents and businesses face in the immediate future.
Both the LLEP and the Business Gateway Growth Hub will continue doing all within their powers to support people and businesses across Leicester and Leicestershire through the challenges and opportunities ahead.
- Read how the LLEP plans to make our region more productive, inclusive, sustainable and innovative over the next eight years.