LEPs ‘lacking transparency’

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Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are lacking transparency, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned.

In a new report published today (March 23), the NAO said that the approach taken by the Department of Communities and Local Government in overseeing the Growth Deals, risks tax payers’ value for money.

With the advent of the Local Growth Fund, the amount of central government funding received by the 39 LEPs across the country is projected to rise to £12 billion between 2015-16 and 2020-21, via locally negotiated Growth Deals.

The NAO said the Government’s rules on how this money is spent meant that some projects were supported even if others would deliver a bigger economic impact.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “LEPs’ role has expanded rapidly and significantly but they are not as transparent to the public as we would expect, especially given they are now responsible for significant amounts of taxpayers’ money.

“While the Department has adopted a ‘light touch’ approach to overseeing Growth Deals, it is important that this doesn’t become ‘no touch’. The department needs to do more to assure itself that the mechanisms it is relying on ensure value for money are, in fact, effective.”

Jim Davison, south west region director at manufactures’ organisation, EEF, commented: “In the run up to the last election LEPs were asked to jump through political hoops and deliver shovel-ready projects – today’s report from the NAO captures that.

“With the Local Growth Fund and Deals continuing, complemented by core funding certainty for delivery, Government must allow business-led LEPs to get on and deliver against strategic economic plans in the future rather than shorter-term political pressures.

“To do this properly, they must truly represent the views of the business community in their local areas – getting businesses from all sectors engaged will be critical to the ultimate success of devolution.”