Local Enterprise Partnerships are to be given core funding by the Government following complaints that the new regional growth bodies are being run “on a shoestring”. The Business Department and the Department for Communities and Local Government will provide combined funds of up to £24m to allow LEPs “to drive forward their growth priorities”, the Government said. The announcement follows an inquiry by an all-party group which found that the independence of LEPs, which replaced Regional Development Agencies, was being compromised by a lack of funds. The organisations are supposed to be voluntary, self-funded partnerships between businesses and local authorities but participants have warned that they have been over-reliant on a small number of core donors, putting their impartiality at risk.
An interim £5m will be made available immediately for all LEPs to use for the remainder of this financial year, the Government said. This will be followed by up to £250,000 per LEP per year for the next two years – provided they can source matched funding of equal value. Business minister Michael Fallon said: “This funding will help LEPs plan for the long term and ensure they can remain locally-led instead of dependent on central government support. We need to ensure LEPs remain voluntary business and civic partnerships so they are in the best possible position to deliver sustainable growth and job creation in their areas.” John Walker, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, welcomed the move. “Funding for the LEP is vital if it is to give the local support that small firms need. We have been pushing for basic dedicated funding at this level from the outset.”