Auditor general Robert Black says:
'Local Economic Forums were set up following recommendations by the Scottish parliament's education and lifelong learning committee to reduce overlap and duplication in the delivery of local business support services. The committee asked if Audit Scotland would monitor the progress LEFs are making and we have agreed to do so.'
Today's report establishes the position inherited by the LEFs and it will be used as a benchmark to measure their progress.
According to a survey commissioned by the Scottish Executive 40% of businesses say there is overlap between public sector providers of business services although nearly half of the businesses surveyed did not express a view one way or the other. More than half of businesses were unclear about which organisations provide which services.
The 22 forums have themselves identified a number of examples of overlap, including:
1. duplication in the provision of financial assistance, business skills training, ICT advice, and property letting services by the local enterprise companies and councils
2. duplication in the provision of assistance for young people by councils and the Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust
3. multiple application forms and processes
LEFs estimate the potential for over£3m of public money to be saved or used more effectively by streamlining the way that business services are provided. Forums plan a range of actions to improve effectiveness including:
1. agreeing single entry point for business enquiries
2. improving literature to clarify the roles of local agencies and the services they provide
3. appointing a lead agency for the delivery of each type of business support service
Alastair MacNish, Accounts Commission chairman says:
'Today's report provides a snapshot at a point in time. It sets out the actions the LEFs intend to take and provides a benchmark for assessing their performance against. We will publish a more detailed report late in 2003 which will look in detail at the progress made by each forum.'
The report, Local Economic Forums: a baseline performance statement, is available here.