Yesterday’s announcement on the future of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the Chancellor’s Budget is undoubtedly disappointing.
The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt announced that, ‘The government is committed to empowering democratically elected local leaders at every opportunity. To this end, the government intends for the functions of Local Enterprise Partnerships to be delivered by local government in the future. Therefore, the government is minded to withdraw central government support for LEPs from April 2024. The Department for Levelling up, Housing & Communities and the Department for Business and Trade will now consult on these proposals, before confirming a decision. The government will publish an updated policy position to confirm next steps by the summer.’
GFirst LEP Chair and Partner at Hazlewoods LLP, Ruth Dooley says,
Ironically, this announcement came on the exact same day that all seven local authorities in Gloucestershire unanimously agreed to continue to support the excellent work of GFirst LEP and to continue match funding it for a further 12-month period.
To make it clear, in Gloucestershire, we have both the Leaders of Gloucestershire County Council and Gloucester City Council sitting on the GFirst LEP Board and the Leader of Cheltenham Borough Council is our ‘Official Observer’ for the board. Equally as important, are all our additional Board Members sat around the table representing the private sector, the voluntary sector and academia – Hazlewoods, Renishaw, Campden BRI, Google, The University of Gloucestershire and Business West to name just a few.
GFirst LEP has prided itself on being politically independent and impartial, listening to the business voice of Gloucestershire and yet working collaboratively with local authorities from all political persuasions.
This news is even more disappointing following five years of reviews and multiple letters from Ministers expressing their appreciation for our work.
We are immensely proud of what GFirst LEP has achieved in the county, successfully bidding for over £113 million of funding for new infrastructure – creating one of the best Growth Hub networks in the country, the Transport Hub in Gloucester, the AccXel Centre in Cinderford, investments at; Gloucester Airport, Hartpury University and Hartpury College, The Royal Agricultural University, the Elmbridge Court roundabout, Five Valleys Shopping Centre in Stroud and so many more right across the county.
As the independent business voice for Gloucestershire, we have no other agenda besides helping our county be the very best place to live and work. This includes generating inward investment opportunities, flying the flag for Gloucestershire on the international stage, providing business support through The Growth Hub, supporting education and skills development, and championing our local food and drink producers through Made in Gloucestershire.
Our work will now focus on ensuring a smooth transition over to Gloucestershire County Council and we hope that none of the key assets of GFirst LEP, including the LEP Board, the Business Groups and the incredibly loyal and hard-working staff, will be lost and that an appropriate legacy remains.
If you have a strong view on these proposed changes feel free to contact your local MP:
Cheltenham – firstname.lastname@example.org
Cotswold – email@example.com
Forest of Dean – firstname.lastname@example.org
Gloucester – email@example.com
Stroud – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tewkesbury - Laurence.email@example.com