The mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough has launched a bid to bring the local enterprise partnership under a “single umbrella” with the combined authority.
This comes after it emerged the National Audit Office is investigating the Greater Cambridgeshire Greater Peterborough LEP after North East Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay questioned why the LEP had allocated finance to projects built by the LEP chair’s construction firm.
Mayor James Palmer (Con) today wrote to LEP chair Mark Reeve saying he was “greatly concerned” by the NAO investigation and claimed “significant growth funding that has been secured for the area is frozen” until it concludes.
Mr Palmer said the LEP was “no longer able to fulfil the purpose for which it was established” and was “creating reputational damage and will inhibit the ability of the area as a whole to attract inward investment”.
As a remedy, Mr Palmer offered to “work with” the LEP to “create a new model of local governance that will have at its centre a powerful relationship between business and local democratic leadership”.
Under this model, which Mr Palmer calls a “single umbrella”, the combined authority and LEP would share a single officer structure “whilst keeping the operational independence” of each body.
It would also have an “assurance framework” with a “single pot approach to funding”, which would allow the authority and LEP to “assess the totality of funding available to the area, and to ensure there is an integrated approach to investment”.
Mr Palmer wrote that democratic leaders on the authority would “sit alongside business leaders” as part of a “rejuvenated business board” comprising “representation from the key sectors that will deliver the national and local industrial strategy”. The new structure would base its decisions on independent advice from the economic commission, chaired by Kate Barker, which the mayor has already established.
“This will be more efficient and effective, provide better value for money for the tax payer, deliver a more coherent and joined up response to businesses, and demonstrate public service reform,” Mr Palmer wrote.
The mayor sent a copy of the letter to all members of the LEP board, communities secretary Sajid Javid, business secretary Greg Clark and northern powerhouse and local growth minister Jake Berry.
The letter comes after Mr Palmer defended his performance against attacks from business leaders.
Among those criticising the mayor were LEP chair Mr Reeve, who said the private sector in the region was “concerned” over the “deliverability” of some of the mayor’s first 100 days pledges.
The NAO is due to publish its report on the LEP in late October or early November.