At an event in central London today, Chairs and Board Members of Local Enterprise Networks (LEPs) gathered together for the inaugural summit of the LEP network. The event was designed to help LEPs tackle issues of shared concern and raise these with ministers at the heart of Government. Four senior Government ministers were there to offer their support to Local Enterprise Partnerships and share their ambitions for economic growth, giving these important locally led bodies a direct line to Whitehall.
Speaking at today’s event, David Frost CBE, Chair of the LEP Network, said:
“I have travelled the length and breadth of England in recent months, speaking to LEPs about their priorities for local growth. LEP chairs and board members have been quite clear: in return for committing their time and their energy, they want a hot-line to the top of Whitehall and Westminster to ensure they have the information, tools and resources they need to deliver new businesses, new jobs, and a stronger enterprise culture.
Today, we saw that hot-line in action. In the months to come, the LEP Network will make sure that lines of communication between partnerships and LEPs remain open. We will work to ensure that partnerships can share their best ideas, and tackle common challenges around issues like infrastructure, training and company growth.”
Business Secretary Vince Cable said:
"Local enterprise partnerships have an important role to play in identifying opportunities for growth in their regions, and the 37 partnerships that we have approved across England are already working hard to address local challenges and bring local communities and businesses together.
"Sharing ideas across the network will enable the partnerships to have access to a variety of options for how they can further support local growth."“I
Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark said:
"Local enterprise partnerships are putting councils and entrepreneurs in charge of laying the foundations for local prosperity. Working together, each brings their particular expertise, their local knowledge and business acumen, to bear. The potential rewards are vast - new jobs, fresh investment, and a higher quality of life for local people.
"I know that there is a great appetite among partnerships to look and see what others are doing, to adapt their innovations, borrow their brainwaves - the better to build on their early achievements.
"Too often, in the past, the dice were loaded against local communities. The success of decentralisation relies on local leaders working out what kinds of discretion and flexibility would help them, and pulling those powers down from Whitehall."
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "This Government came to power with a different view of how you create the conditions for economic growth. We believe in local power, matched with local responsibility.
"It’s an unprecedented opportunity for local leaders to take choices and make decisions. This is one of those points in history where individuals really do have a chance to make their mark. The next year has to be about turning ambition into results.
"Government is ready to listen. There is no limit to what partnerships might want to propose but their own imagination and ambition, nothing is off the table."
Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said:
“We recognise that, if we are to unleash the growth potential of our regions and to get maximum value from our strategic infrastructure investments, we cannot afford to neglect the local transport networks that connect to them.
“I want to fully devolve decisions and funding for local capital transport improvements to a number of ‘Local Transport Consortia’ each made up of a number of LEPs and their constituent local authorities.
“This will save a huge amount of time and effort that was previously wasted at the interface between local project promoters and Whitehall.
“And I’m convinced that we will emerge with a robust model of decentralisation that will transform local transport delivery for good and deliver the world-class networks that will set Britain back on the path to sustainable growth and lasting prosperity.”
George Beveridge, Chair of the Cumbria LEP, said
“Local enterprise partnerships are in the process of developing their own priorities. Cumbria is very different from Manchester for example, and we need the Government to tailor its support to our programmes and priorities. Our role is to lead on economic development in our own areas, and we look forward to Government support that recognises the diversity across the LEP Network.”