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Local Enterprise Partnerships and the Regional Growth Fund

25 July 2012 - Source

There are 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) now operating, with 100% coverage across England.

The Local Growth White Paper (2010) set out the Government’s vision for LEPs; their establishment constitutes a real power shift away from central Government and quangos and towards local communities and local businesses who really understand the barriers to growth in their areas. Through LEPs, business and civic leaders are working together to drive sustainable economic growth and create the conditions for private sector job growth in their communities. As local partnerships, LEPs are by design, accountable to their local communities; they are diverse bodies with roles which reflect local priorities.

Much has been achieved in the first phase of implementation; following local business engagement and consultation with their local partners, many LEPs have published their strategic plans and priorities. LEPs have also identified key growth projects.

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have run a series of roadshows which give businesses and the voluntary sector a real say in the development of the new local economic strategy. Called 'Tell Us', the series of road shows challenges businesses of all sizes to take the driving seat and set the partnership’s priorities.

Local priorities focus on what needs to happen to ensure that business needs are met by local planning and infrastructure investment.

LEPs have also grasped opportunities offered by Government as a range of new tools to drive local growth have been introduced, including Core City deals, the £730m Growing Places Fund (GPF) and Enterprise Zones, as well as encouragement and support to bid for Regional Growth Funds.

Government has supported LEPs in their early development. This has included partnership support from BIS Local, providing important links into central government and facilitation within the regions. A national network for LEPs, provided by British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), has delivered 2 national conferences, themed workshops to exchange good practice, and a detailed economic benchmarking report of local area economies. Government has also made available £9m capacity and start-up funding to support their set-up costs. LEPs have recently made representations to government for further limited core support, to be matched by local partners. Government understands these pressures and is currently actively considering options.

Regional Growth Fund

Government has also launched the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) to help boost local economic development. The RGF is now a £2.4bn fund operating across England from 2011 to 2015. It supports projects and programmes that lever private sector investment to create economic growth and sustainable employment. It aims particularly to help those areas and communities which were dependent on the public sector to make the transition to sustainable private sector-led growth and prosperity. From the outset, LEPs have been encouraged to get involved with bids to the RGF as they can play an important strategic role. As LEPs have become more established, they have become increasingly involved with RGF bids. This is reflected in the significantly increased number of bids made by LEPs in the latest round.

So far the RGF is already having an important impact from rounds one and two, leveraging around £7.8 billion of private sector funding. Initial indications show that Round three bids could deliver similar levels of private sector leverage to previous rounds, approximately £6 for every £1 of taxpayers’ money.

Round 3 of the Fund opened on 23 February 2012 and closed on 13 June 2012. Over 400 bids have been received and currently all are being assessed by the RGF Secretariat. An announcement of successful bids will be made in the autumn 2012. Part II of this evidence submission sets out more detail on the RGF.