Don't be shy, says Pickles: LEPs should 'break rules' to get LAs to play ball, pool resources to support partnerships

Government ministers have been meeting local enterprise partnership (LEP) leaders to discuss their plans to drive growth across the country.

Business Secretary Vince Cable, Transport Secretary Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles and Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk all took part in the annual conference which brings together leaders from across the LEP network.

The are now 39 LEPs in England, covering every business in the country and bringing business and civic leaders together to drive sustainable, private sector growth in their communities.

Speaking at the LEP Network Annual Conference, Pickles encouraged LEPs to 'break rules' and 'take liberties' with local authority processes to escape the 'dead hand of government'.

He told assembled representatives from the country’s 39 LEPs: 'You're here to name and shame. If there's anyone who is refusing to play ball and help you to help your local communities let me know.

'For instance, if there are local authorities out there that are refusing to pool their resources to support their partnership, I'll be expecting answers - pretty quickly. So don't be shy.'

Speaking about the challenges LEPs face, Pickles told of one that took four months to procure a website because of 'local authority processes', according to Planning.

Pickles praised the achievements of LEPs so far, particularly in the establishment of 24 enterprise zones across the country and the use of local development orders for 'removing the normal delay and costs of planning permission.

Also at the conference, transport secretary Justine Greening said LEPs would play a central role in the government’s plans to devolve decisions on how to spend money on major local transport schemes.

Greening said the proposed reforms would give communities power to deliver 'real improvements on everything from local roads and public transport schemes, to better pedestrianise routes and new rail stations.

She said the results of the consultation, which ended last month, would be published this summer alongside indicative allocations for major transport scheme funding for local transport bodies.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: 'Right across England, LEPs are key institutions working to drive growth in their local economies. 'A key feature of LEPs is that they are private sector led, and involve people who really understand the area in which they live and work.

'All LEPs are new but all are now operating and are developing a clear and defined strategy, and identifying local priorities they want to tackle.'

Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk said: 'LEPs are vital for promoting local growth. Thousands of business and civic leaders have set their priorities in their local economies and the Government is keen to help.
'It’s still early days, but this conference will enable LEPs and ministers across government to better understand what needs to happen next.'

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and Business Link have also worked with a number of LEPs who are looking to enhance the business support sections of their websites. LEPs have been able to syndicate content from Business Link, as a free and effective way of adding depth and authority to their online business information, rather than needing to invest in their own business support tools, information and guidance.

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