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Minister warns LEPs over missed deadline

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At least one of the organisations the government expects to lead economic growth across England is at risk of missing out on £250,000 funding after failing to meet a key deadline.

Lancashire’s local enterprise partnership is one of two to receive a warning letter from ministers after failing to send its growth plan to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills by the end of last year.

All 39 LEPs in England had been expected to submit plans by that deadline.

The ministerial intervention comes amid concerns that some LEPs have failed to prepare for the extra responsibilities the government’s economic adviser Lord Heseltine has recommended.

Local government minster Mark Prisk and business minister Michael Fallon wrote to Lancashire LEP and Marches LEP last month making it clear that £250,000 funding aimed at boosting their capacity had been “conditional” on a growth plan being “submitted to us by the end of December 2012”.

While the Marches partnership, in the West Midlands, has since submitted a growth plan and also met a February deadline for its capacity funding bid for 2013-14, Lancashire admits its growth plan will not be ready until after April.

A spokesman for the Lancashire LEP said: “It is important [the growth plan] is developed thoroughly and reflects the full scope of what the LEP intends to achieve.

“We don’t anticipate the timing having any negative impact on our funding bid.”

The capacity funding was announced after Lord Heseltine said LEPs should play a bigger role in economic policy, such as bidding for portions of a proposed £58bn single pot of funding.

The LGA has raised concern that areas with weak LEPs could miss out in such a competitive process. At last week’s executive meeting, LGA Labour group leader David Sparks said LEPs varied in quality. “They do not have the capacity to deliver what they are expected to deliver now,” he said.

Last month, Lord Heseltine told a select committee he was confident that LEPs that failed to win funding would quickly “transform their performance”.

A BIS spokeswoman confirmed Lancashire’s funding would be conditional on a “satisfactory” plan.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Got rid of RDA's quick enough but the LEP's are trying to stumble into existence - some still appointing senior staff. This is a weakening at the very time support is crucial.

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