Posted on:
8th August, 2022

Next PM must reset relationship with local business

Local LEP business leaders are calling on the future Prime Minister to make resetting the relationship between government and local business a priority to ensure that the local economic growth we desperately need can move at pace.

Next PM must reset relationship with local business

The demand is at the heart of a plea to the incoming Prime Minister and new ministers in a short paper sent to the two Conservative leadership candidates. Growing Local Economies at Pace sets out what LEPs believe needs to happen at a local level if we are ever to break out of the latest gloomy economic assessment from the Bank of England. 

LEP Network Chair, Mark Bretton, said:

“It’s no secret that local business leaders have felt frustrated over the past two years which saw a very mixed approach to engaging with local businesses and supporting SMEs, compounded by a 50% funding reduction to LEP Growth Hubs, the business support network that’s helped 2.3m entrepreneurs and businesses in a single year.

“It’s local business that will be the engine of growth on the ground and we welcome the opportunity for business to play its part in the devolution agenda.  Harnessing the power of the private sector through LEPs will help ‘reset’ and strengthen a more positive relationship with business. Amid the latest Bank of England outlook  – it would be foolhardy to ignore or lose such an asset and opportunity at this time.”  

The paper outlines in straightforward terms what needs to happen to get local growth and productivity moving, and how business led LEPs are already able to forge that at pace. But LEPs need a minimum level of support and a commitment from the new PM to make this happen, as well as a recognition of the role local business leaders can play in driving local growth.

Jonathan Werran, Chief Executive of Localis, the independent place-focused think tank which champions neo-localist thinking, said:

“With the country moving into at the minimum a full year of recession with all that entails for economic and social upheaval, it will become ever more important for the voice of the private sector to be not just heard but fully heeded to ensure stability in the first instance, before we can move on to eventual recovery.

“Since recovery and growth occur at the level of place, in our cities, towns and rural areas, the need is to quickly and adroitly gather and galvanise local economic anchors and business leaders who have the expertise and nous to work with central and local government to protect and nurture the vital green shoots of business growth for the future after the storm.”

The LEP Network has today sent a copy of their Growing Local Economies at Pace paper to both Conservative Party leadership candidates which concludes with a five-point check list for local growth:

  1. A one size plan does not fit all - our regional economies have very disparate and unique strengths which is greater than the sum of its parts and government must work with LEP business leaders who know how to exploit these strengths effectively.
  2. To make this work, government departments must recognise and engage directly with LEPs and exploit the brokering and convening capability they deliver for national economic programmes on the ground.
  3. A defined role for a local independent business voice must be central to devolution and the levelling up agenda, not an afterthought.
  4. It is essential that government work with LEPs or commission them to build the investment zones of the future as they are the ready-made vehicle to do this with the processes and systems in place to grow local economies at the pace needed.
  5. To underpin this, LEPs need a simple multi-year funding settlement that is commensurate with the task at hand and stabilises business support and investment, including reinstating the funding of LEP Growth Hubs that continue to support millions of entrepreneurs and local businesses. 

A copy of the paper, Growing Local Economies at Pace, is available here.