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Governance is the key to growth

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As 20 more local enterprise partnerships contemplate how they will be developing and strengthening their city deal proposals, the challenges of structure and governance return to centre stage for debate.

Combined authorities and economic prosperity boards will no doubt feature on many LEP board agendas.

The first element of the debate could well focus on the optimism of what value, flexibilities and investment this strengthening of local governance could bring if Whitehall is sufficiently convinced.

It is impossible today to know what a city deal is worth to an area, but my estimate is that it could be worth an extra £50m per year to Leicester and Leicestershire in monetary terms alone.

The second element could well be concern about what level of local economic control of funding and investment would be available in the future without a convincing structure of governance and decision making.

Smaller city and county regions without such governance may feel increasingly out of touch and disadvantaged. Combined authorities and economic prosperity boards will not be appropriate for all areas. So what are the other options?

The third element of debate could centre on how a well-established LEP would function alongside an economic prosperity board or a combined authority.

Highly prized business engagement could be at risk if the influence of business on economic decision making and investment was seen to be diluted.

One thing is certain, and that is the need for stronger local governance and decision making in relation to economic development across all stakeholders and tiers of local government.

Whatever the solution - a combined authority, an economic prosperity board or something else - key decisions have to be made in each local area to earn the right for the devolution of decision making and funding that the Heseltine review promises us.

Andrew Bacon, chairman, Leicester & Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership, and director, British Gas

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