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Local devolution begins with green light for LEPs

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Ministers are set to approve 22 of the 56 bids for new local enterprise partnerships, in what could signal the start of a radical process of devolving powers, LGC has learned.

Bids covering England’s largest regional cities are all included on the list, with the exception of Hull, whose proposal for a LEP covering only the north bank of the Humber estuary has not found favour.

LGC understands from sources close to the process that, in the North-East, business secretary Vince Cable, who favoured a regional LEP, has struck a compromise with communities secretary Eric Pickles – who is opposed to the concept of regions. The likely outcome is that there will be two LEPs, one for the Tees Valley and the other for the rest of the North-East. In Yorkshire, Leeds and Sheffield city regions will be approved, possibly along with the rural North Yorkshire bid.

In the North-West, Greater Manchester, Liverpool city region and the Cheshire and Warrington proposals are likely to get the green light, but three bids covering Lancashire, along with Cumbria’s bid, are not included on the provisional list, LGC has been told. But LGC understands that Cumbria’s bid could yet get the nod in the first wave.

All the West Midlands bids bar Staffordshire’s proposal are included, although the Black Country bid will likely be be merged with the Greater Birmingham proposal. In the East Midlands proposals covering Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and Leicester and Leicestershire are likely to get the go-ahead, possibly with the addition of the south-east Midlands and Lincolnshire bids.

In the greater South-East the following bids are included: the Kent and Essex ‘super LEP’; Cambridgeshire and Peterborough; the Oxford city region; Hertfordshire; the Solent bid, covering Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight; and the Coast to Capital bid covering Brighton, West Sussex, the Gatwick Diamond and Croydon.

In the South-West, ministers seem set to approve Greater Bristol and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly bids but five other proposals – including the Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole partnership – are not included on the provisional list, LGC was told.

Speaking to LGC at the Conservative Party conference, business minister Mark Prisk would not comment on the provisional list.

“There are a number [of bids] that are of a significant calibre, scale and [have] strong business engagement and those are the things that matter enormously to the government,” he said.

LGC understands the announcement could be made as early as next week when Parliament returns after the conference recess. However, it might be delayed until the publication of the sub-national growth white paper, which is due at the end of this month.

A BIS spokesman said: “No final decisions have yet been made on successful local enterprise partnership proposals, or otherwise. Ministers are still considering all of the proposals submitted and will be providing feedback to partnerships in due course. The list published today is purely speculative.”

See chief reporter Allister Hayman’s latest blog on the bids likely to get the green light here.

Catch up on the latest LEP news at LGCplus.com/LEPs

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