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Kent considers South East LEP break away plans

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Proposals to break up the South East Local Enterprise Partnership in a bid to gain devolved powers over skills and employment will go to Kent County Council today.

The council will hear plans for a new, smaller Kent and Medway LEP to be set up by 1 October which would effectively end the South East LEP.

A paper about the change, which will be discussed at the meeting, said the scale and complexity of the South East LEP, which covers a population of over four million, “made the prioritisation of schemes difficult and bureaucratic”. It had also failed to win significant freedoms and flexibilities from Whitehall which the report said was “not good enough… but not surprising”.

The report said the proposed Kent and Medway LEP would be clearer and more accountable, and stand a better chance of getting more budgets devolved to it. For example the paper suggests the new LEP could set up a Kent and Medway Skills Commission, seek the devolution of the National Careers Service budget, and ask for freedoms for the commission to set priorities for the budgets of Skills and Education Funding Agencies and Jobcentre Plus in relation to technical and vocational education provision in the area.

As LGC reported last month, the proposals for the breakaway LEP in Kent and Medway have led Essex CC to propose a Greater Essex LEP with Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock BCs, though the two unitaries may oppose the idea. Meanwhile East Sussex CC could opt to join the adjacent Coast to Capital LEP if the South East LEP is dismantled.

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