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LEPs: 22 bald men fighting over a comb?

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As LGC reveals, ministers have earmarked 22 of the 56 bids to form new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) as ready for the green light. The bids, outlined below, cover much of the country, including all of England’s largest regional cities, with the exception of Hull.

The number - 22 - is more than was expected.  Only a few weeks ago at the Liberal Democrats party conference, business secretary Vince Cable said around a dozen bids were good, and the rest needed more work. But this week at the Conservative Party conference, communities secretary Eric Pickles said 15-22 were “ready to go”. Below LGC lists those 22, confirmed by sources close to the process.

LGC understands that Mr Pickles was pushing for more LEPs to be given the green light, while Mr Cable and offiicals in the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, favored fewer, larger partnerships. The result is a compromise, evident in the North East, where Mr Cable wanted a single regional LEP, but the Department for Communities & Local Government wanted Tees Valley, which has a strong proposal based on its existing multi-area agreement (MAA), to get the go ahead.

Some areas have obviously missed out. Bids from Lancashire have been overlooked, with the Pennine Lancashire partnership, which had a strong proposal based on its existing MAA that covered a functional economic area, likely to be particularly disappointed.

But whether those that have missed out, at least in the first wave, will actually lose out remains to be seen. LGC understands that areas that aren’t given LEP status will still be able to apply to the £1bn regional growth fund, which at this stage is the only identified source of funding.

Much also remains uncertain about what powers - if any - the LEPs will receive with more to be revealed in a white paper to be published at the end of October. What is also clear is that ‘green light’ simply means that a process of negoitation will begin with the partnerships over what might be devolved. If the bids don’t end up getting real powers, the whole process may yet be be little more than 22 bald men fighting over a comb.

*** Health warning: Although this information is based on the latest list circulating in Whitehall it is provisional and may be subject to change, pending further discussions within government and with bidders.

NB: the councils listed as being part of the LEP below are those that supported the bid. The eventual LEP may actually incorporate other councils, as will likely be the case in Kent-Essex, where Medway and several Kent districts did not support the ‘super LEP’

North West (3-4)

Green light

  • Greater Manchester
  • Merseyside: Liverpool City Council, Sefton MBC, Knowsley MBC, St Helens MBC, Halton BC, Wirral MBC
  • Cheshire & Warrington: Warrington BC, Cheshire West & Chester Council, and Cheshire East Council

Possibly also:

  • Cumbria

Here seven bids seem to have been pared down to just three, with three bids covering Blackpool & Fylde, Pennine Lancashire and Lancashire County Council, left off the provisional list. This will come as a blow to the Pennine Lancashire partnership and Blackpool and Fylde, which both have existing multi-area agreements in place. But ministers seem to have concluded that three bids covering Lancashire  were too many - and the conflicitng nature of the bids would not have helped. Cumbria’s bid could yet make a late run for inclusion.

North East (2)

Green light

  • Tees Valley Unlimited - Middlesbrough Council, Darlington BC, Stockton-on-Tees BC, Redcar & Cleveland BC, Hartlepool BC
  • North East Partnership: Likely to comprise Newcastle City Council; Gateshead Council; Northumberland CC; North Tyneside Council; Sunderland City Council; South Tyneside MBC; and Durham County Council

Having started out supporting the retention of One North East, the regional development agency, the region began to split into multiple LEP bids after Tees Valley submitted its proposal. The result was five sub-regional bids, with another overarching regional proposal.

Business secretary Vince Cable, who favoured a regional LEP, has now struck a compromise with communities secretary Eric Pickles – who is opposed to regional arrangements. The outcome is that there will likely be two LEPs, one for the Tees Valley and the other for the rest of the North-East.

Yorkshire & Humber (2)

Green light

  • Leeds City Region (including Craven DC , Harrogate BC, City of York Council , and Selby DC from North Yorkshire and Barnsley, which plans to be part of two LEPs*)
  • Sheffield City Region (including North East Derbyshire DC, Chesterfield BC, Bolsover DC from Derbyshire and Bassetlaw DC from Nottinghamshire)

Both the city region’s are set to get the green light, possibly with the addition of North Yorkshire. However, Hull City Council’s refusal to entertain a Humber-wide partnership with its neighbours across the estuary – as business wanted - looks to have proven costly, with the city left off the provisional list. This means Hull, at least in the first instance, will be the only large regional city not to be covered by a LEP.

West Midlands (4-5)

Green light

  • Greater Birmingham - Birmingham City Council and Solihull MBC, Tamworth BC, East Staffordshire BC, Lichfield DC
  • The Marches Enterprise Partnership: Herefordshire CC, Shropshire CC and Telford & Wrekin Council
  • The Black Country: Wolverhampton City Council, Dudley MBC, Sandwell MBC and Walsall MBC (NB: may yet be merged with Greater Brum)
  • Coventry and Warwickshire and districts
  • Worcestershire and districts

All of the region’s sub-regional LEPs look set to be given the green light, with the exception of the Staffordshire CC & Stoke-on-Trent City Council bid, which failed to gain the full support of the county’s districts. There may yet be some further consolidation however, as Vince Cable favors larger LEPs and Eric Pickles wants the Black Country to join with Greater Birmingham.

East Midlands (2)

Green light

  • Derbyshire CC and districts, Derby City Council, Nottinghamshire CC and districts, Nottingham City Council
  • Leicester & Leicestershire: Leicestershire CC and districts, Leicester City Council

Possibly also:

  • South East Midlands: Milton Keynes Council, Bedford BC, Central Bedfordshire Council, Luton BC, and Aylesbury Vale DC ( from Buckinghamshire) and Cherwell DC (from Oxfordshire) and South Northamptonshire DC, Daventry DC, Northampton BC, Kettering BC and Corby BC (from Northamptonshire)
  • Greater Lincolnshire: Lincolnshire CC and districts, North Lincolnshire Council and North East Lincolnshire Council

The flagship bid covering Derby, Nottingham and their counties always looked like a good bet, but there were question marks over the bids from the rest of the region, with disputes within Leicester and Leicestershire about whether to submit their own bid, or join with Northamptonshire.

But it looks as if the Leicester & Leicestershire bid, which had the backing of business, will get the green light. However, Northamptonshire CC’s bid, which was not backed by all of its districts, many of which chose to join with the South East Midlands bid, has been passed over. LGC understands that, although not on the provisional list, the Soth East Midlands bid and the Greater Lincolnshire bid may yet get  the green light.

Greater South East (6)

Green light

  • Greater Cambridge & Greater Peterborough: Cambridge City Council, Cambridgeshire CC and its districts and Peterborough City Council, and North Hertfordshire DC (Hertfordshire),  Rutland CC, King’s Lynn & West Norfolk BC (Norfolk), Fenland DC, Forest Heath DC (Suffolk)
  • Hertfordshire CC and districts
  • Kent-Essex: Essex CC and its districts, Southend-on-Sea Council, Thurrock Council and Kent CC, Canterbury City Council, Dover DC, Shepway DC, Thanet DC
  • Coast to Capital: West Sussex CC and its districts and Brighton & Hove City Council, Croydon LBC, and the Gatwick Diamond
  • Solent: Portsmouth City Council, Southampton City Council, Eastleigh BC, Fareham BC, Gosport BC, Havant BC, New Forest DC, Test Valley BC , Winchester City Council, and Isle of Wight Council
  • Oxfordshire City Region: Oxfordshire CC and districts

Whether these six bids in the greater south east do indeed get the go ahead will depend on some final tinkering from Eric Pickles, LGC has been told, with some bids expected to bring in other areas.For instance, the two Thames Valley bids - covering Berkshire and Buckinghamshire - may be expected to join the Oxfordshire bid,  while East Sussex may have to come together with the the Coast to Capital proposal. But the provisional list will come as a blow to East Anglia, which failed to put together a single coherent bid.

South West (2)

Green light

  • West of England: Bristol City Council, North Somerset Council, Bath & North East Somerset Council, South Gloucestershire Council
  • Empowering Enterprise: Cornwall CC and the Isles of Scilly

No surprises that Greater Bristol, known as the West of England Partnership is set to get the green light as the proposal is based on the city region’s existing multi-area agreement and was one of the first bids to be submitted.

However, if the Cornwall & Isle of Scilly bid does get the green light, as expected, this will come as a surprise, given that the local Federation of Small Business said it had not been consulted about the proposal and it was criticised in a session of the Business, Innovation and Skills select committee for lacking business engagement.

Another surprise is the exclusion of the Bourmeouth, Dorset and Poole bid, as that is based on an existing multi-area agreement. LGC understands that Eric Pickles favors a multiple county-LEP in the south west, taking in Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire. But where that would leave Devon and Somerset is unclear.

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From Fit for Purpose

LGC’s chief reporter Allister Hayman blogs about politics, economic development, localism, housing and planning and the ‘Big Society’.Twitter- @ajrhayman. Email- allister.hayman@emap.com

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