Leaked letter reveals minister's concerns over LEPs policy

Business and enterprise minister Mark Prisk warned business secretary Vince Cable in September that the coalition's local enterprise partnership plans could be a "failure in large parts of England" should businesses become "detached" from the policy, a leaked letter reveals.

In the letter, dated 14 September, Prisk alerts Cable to the "strong concerns of the business community" regarding the Government’s local LEPs policy, according to The Times, which published the contents of the letter today.

The coalition Government is replacing the regional development agencies with council and business-led LEPs. Last week, the coalition unveiled the names of the first 24 successful LEP bids as part of moves to rebalance the economy and encourage economic growth.

But Prisk’s letter, which was sent more than a month before the successful bids were announced, said: "There is a strong view among the business community that many LEPs lack the ambition to make significant economic impact, undermining our agenda for growth.

"Key messages I have been made aware of include: a lack of credible business representation; negotiations dominated by local politics; and a lack of a clear focus on economic growth."

The letter continued: "At worst, the danger is that the CBI and others become detached from this policy heralding likely failure in large parts of England."

But a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) spokeswoman said: "All proposals for local enterprise partnerships were reviewed against the Government’s expectations, including the level of business and civic engagement within the partnership; the coherence of the economic geography it covered and the ambition it showed.

"Credible business engagement is particularly important if partnerships are to realise the economic potential of their area.

"Proposals that failed to demonstrate a sufficient level of business support have not been successful at this stage, and officials are working with partnerships on their proposals, which will be reviewed again once they have addressed the Government's concerns."

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