LEPs and Localisation: guiding principles for local economic renewal

LWM evaluation of West Midlands LEP proposals: Supporting Local Economic Renewal for Sustainability – April 2011

Local Enterprise Partnerships’ purpose is to ‘help strengthen local economies’ and facilitate ‘local economic renewal’.[1]

The UK has one of the most centralised economies in Europe, leaving us lacking in economic diversity and vulnerable to global economic change.

Community-scale economic power (a strong local multiplier and local ownership), local production and resource management are central concepts in sustainable development. An economy shifted towards smaller businesses and with an emphasis on local supply chains and local market opportunities can create more stable local growth in employment, and has inherent resource efficiencies in land use, human and material resources. An approach to economic development that ignores these factors can impoverish a local economy, failing to share the proceeds of growth both at the very local level and in terms of the wider geographical distribution of economic development across regions and the country.

Local Enterprise Partnerships have both the purpose and the potential to tackle some of these problems, generating local economic renewal based around the people and resource flows of functional economic geographies. LEPs are intended to support decentralisation as outlined in the Localism Bill including by ‘empowering communities to do things their way’ and by “strengthening accountability to local people’[2]

Resilience and redistribution can be addressed by economies that maximise local money circulation and local ownership, meet identified local needs, use local resources efficiently and reduce pressures on transportation systems. This is sustainable development.

Strategies to support local economic renewal should be incorporated by Local Enterprise Partnerships into Regional Growth Fund proposals, planning and economic development interventions.

Support for local enterprise

A high proportion of resources should be directed to:

–          Analyse the local economy to identify where smaller companies bring benefits and efficiency and then seek to remove any barriers to smaller companies.

–          Meet the needs of SMEs, including interventions in infrastructure, access to funding and skills.

–          Create a skills and planning environment for enterprise startups to flourish

–          Support social enterprise and community ownership

–          using and sharing intelligence to help local enterprises take up opportunities and new markets

Harnessing procurement

–          Activities to link public procurement and larger businesses into local supply chains

–          Major public and private sector procurement leads in the area should be key contacts and stakeholders for LEPs

Identifying markets that meet identified local needs and/or use local resources (physical and social)

–          Supply chain development targeted to meet consumer, industry and service needs in a specific geographical area, including food production and distribution

–          Activities that support rather than damage the area’s green infrastructure

–          Measures to maximise local resource use, including a focus on industrial symbiosis and reuse, to improve economic efficiency

–          Environmental technologies, particularly those with potential for local or UK-wide application

–          energy efficiency services and financing schemes (such as Green New Deal) to scale these up

–          Use/promotion of local skills and labour, particularly for areas of economic need

Planning, housing, transport and infrastructure

The mechanisms for LEP involvement in planning and housing issues are unclear, but to support local economic renewal any interventions should bear in mind:

–          Promoting appropriate homes in appropriate places, providing for local people in areas where facilities and employment are available, in order to create area quality and reduce the need to travel

–          Promoting the provision of investment sites of appropriate scales for a mix of sizes of enterprise

–          The need to plan for development in geographical areas of need as well as of opportunity

–          Prioritising transport infrastructure and ‘soft’ measures that facilitate local supply chains.

Governance and stakeholders

–          Involvement of SME-representing partners

–          Involvement of private sector stakeholders from as many areas and sections of the population as possible, reflecting diversity and ensuring relevance – including urban and rural stakeholders.

–          Involvement of civil society representatives and of the users of services affected by LEP decisions.

–          Commitment to work in partnership with other structures across area

–          Commitment to transparency and accountability of decision-making

[1] http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/biscore/regional/docs/10-1026-final-letter-local-enterprise-partnerships

[2] HM Government (2010a) Decentralisation and the Localism Bill: an essential guide London: DCLG

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