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It’s time for LEPs and their local authority partners to take control of the local growth agenda

LEPs are at risk of being side-tracked by government requirements and processes at the end of which is a small share of a £2bn pot. They should not be deflected from taking the action needed to support economic growth.

Where LEPs are working well, they benefit from working in partnership with a wide range of local businesses, education providers and other stakeholders. Informed by hard business intelligence, the best LEPs can pursue their economic development priorities with confidence.

However, these partnerships are largely informal and relationship based. And it takes time to develop effective interventions to enable economic growth. It must be informed by a granular understanding of which businesses have the ambition and market opportunities to grow and the barriers they face. This approach is at risk of being de-railed if LEPs are diverted by government demands.

Indeed there are several places where the private sector is reluctant to engage with LEPs – often sceptical about what resources they can offer.

But at least for the foreseeable future, LEPs will remain the interface between the private sector and public sector. Their real asset is their ability to mobilise local councils behind a locally-led approach to economic development.

The prospect of negotiating local growth deals with Ministers was an attractive one. The reality of negotiation by template is somewhat less inspiring. From our experience, government is incapable of simultaneously negotiating with 39 different areas anyway.

We have seen the same thing happen with Local PSAs, LAAs, MAAs and City Deals. A small number of negotiations – often as part of a pilot process – worked well and supported innovative policy-making. But the next stage, the national roll-out, has inevitably been weighed down by bureaucracy

The only way round this is for all areas to benefit from a devolved package of powers to promote growth, as was suggested recently by the County APPG. Areas with the ambition and track record to do so could then negotiate additional devolved powers.

This would promote confidence in LEPs and give them space to develop local strategies with partners.

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