Communities secretary Greg Clark has announced that no devolution deal will be done without the backing of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), in a move likely to prove controversial with some in the local government sector.
The 39 local bodies - which bring together council and business representatives and oversee the spending of billions of transport cash under Local Growth deals - will play a key role in Whitehall devolution plans, Mr Clarke said.
‘These partnerships you created between local businesses and local government have been a phenomenal revolution. And this has completely changed the way investment and growth is done in this country,’ the secretary of state said in a speech to the LEP Network.
‘You have worked together to create economic growth and jobs and we want to see more of this. There is now much more collaboration between business and local authorities, which is vindication that the model works.
‘The areas that combined authorities are now following are the same areas defined by Local Enterprise Partnerships as being the true economic geography of our nation. As such no devolution deal will be signed off unless it is absolutely clear Local Enterprise Partnerships will also be at the heart of arrangements.’
Mr Clark has previously confirmed that there would be no changes to the LEP structure, despite suggestions by his predecessor and fellow-Conservative Eric Pickles that their could be cut to help better reflect economic areas.
Many in the local government and transport sectors have raised concerns about LEPs, not least because they overlap in some areas, which might cause problems when it comes to signing off local deals.
One Surveyor Transport Network source said the LEP system had made transport funding a ‘mess’, as LEPs must bid to government for the Local Growth deal cash before councils then bid to LEPs in their area to secure a portion for local projects.
The Government used the recent Queen’s Speech to unveil the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, which would set a broad template for devolution across the country.