The national body championing the work of LEPs across England has urged the Conservative leadership candidates to recognise and engage with local business.
It has sent a short paper to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss – one of whom will be the next Prime Minister – setting out what LEPs believe needs to happen at a local level following recent economic assessments from the Bank of England.
The paper calls on the next Prime Minister to make a priority of resetting the relationship between Government and local business to ensure that the local economic growth can move forward at pace.
LEP Network Chair, Mark Bretton, said:
It’s no secret that local business leaders have felt frustrated over the past two years, which saw a very mixed approach to engaging with local businesses and supporting SMEs.
This was compounded by a 50% funding reduction to LEP Growth Hubs, the business support network that’s helped 2.3m entrepreneurs and businesses in a single year.
It’s local business that will be the engine of growth on the ground and we welcome the opportunity for business to play its part in the devolution agenda.
Harnessing the power of the private sector through LEPs will help ‘reset’ and strengthen a more positive relationship with business.
Amid the latest Bank of England outlook – it would be foolhardy to ignore or lose such an asset and opportunity at this time.
The LLEP’s Business Gateway Growth Hub supported small businesses with a combined turnover topping £2.2 billion between April 2021 and March 2022.
The latest LEP Network paper concludes with a five-point check list for local growth:
- A one size plan does not fit all – regional economies have disparate and unique strengths which are greater than the sum of its parts and Government must work with LEP business leaders who know how to exploit these strengths effectively.
- To make this work, Government departments must recognise and engage directly with LEPs and exploit the brokering and convening capability they deliver for national economic programmes on the ground.
- A defined role for a local independent business voice must be central to devolution and the levelling up agenda, not an afterthought.
- It is essential that Government works with LEPs or commission them to build the investment zones of the future as they are the ready-made vehicle to do this with the processes and systems in place to grow local economies at the pace needed.
- To underpin this, LEPs need a simple multi-year funding settlement that is commensurate with the task at hand and stabilises business support and investment, including reinstating the funding of LEP Growth Hubs that continue to support millions of entrepreneurs and local businesses.
The LEP Network acts as a lead and central source of information for England’s LEPs at a national level in discussions with government and other target audiences
- A copy of the LEP Network paper, Growing Local Economies at Pace, is available here.