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Counties call for Lep boundaries to be redrawn

County council leaders have called for local enterprise partnership (Lep) boundaries to be redrawn and aligned with their own, according to a new report out today.

A report published today by the County Councils Network (CCN) and consultants Grant Thornton reveals the vast majority (84%) of upper-tier councils believe Lep boundaries should be re-shaped and aligned with county priorities.

According to the report, only six counties in England share a boundary with their Lep.

The remaining 31 counties in England either work alongside several different Leps or one that covers a whole region.

In the report, Grant Thornton argues that it ‘is not realistic’ to expect local councils to engage with more than one Lep.

And the CCN argues it creates confusion for local business, occasionally leads to competing and differing priorities over investment and growth initiatives.

‘Many counties do not share co-terminosity with their Leps meaning that many work with two or even three Leps who overlap their county boundaries,’ the report states.

‘This can become a difficult juggling act, considering the different priorities of different locations and Leps.’

The report also shows that the majority (85%) of counties say they have a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ relationship with their Lep and 60% believe Leps’ economic growth plans are tailored to the needs of local communities.

While half said Leps are democratically accountable and nearly two thirds (58%) believe they duplicate the role of the county council.

‘Despite the concerns over the transparency of Leps, and overwhelming issues with Leps lack of co-terminosity, it is clear that many county leaders have strong relationships with their Leps, and see the value in having strong links with their business leaders who they feel are presented well on Leps,’ the report adds.

The CCN’s vice-chairman, Philip Atkins said Leps are ‘here to stay’ and county leaders have built up a ‘strong local relationship with their business leaders over the past eight years’.

‘However, these councillors are clear: if we are to seize the moment and take back control of our economic futures through successful localised industrial strategies, Lep boundaries should be reviewed, and they should be shaped by local areas,’ said Mr Atkins.

‘Reducing the complexity of Lep geographies will be good for business and good for local economies; simplifying overlapping boundaries which creates confusion, and in some cases, makes joint investment and targeted investment harder, with differing Leps naturally having differing priorities and different needs.’

The head of local government at Grant Thornton, Guy Clifton, added: ‘It’s simply not realistic to expect local authorities, slimmed down after over half a decade of austerity, to engage with more than one Lep.

‘Local leaders represent their communities and are rooted in their places and so need to be at the heart of decision-making, not an adjunct to it. The precise geography of Leps going forward, whether single county or cross-county, should be shaped by local leaders and what works for them, not devised in Whitehall.’

  • To read the full CCN/Grant Thornton report, click here.

Photo by Mohammad M.Ammar

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