The New Local Enterprise Partnerships: An Initial Assessment - Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Contents


Written evidence from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Enterprise Partnership

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  Cornwall Council and the Council for the Isles of Scilly along with our business partners feel that the development of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) will enable us to better match economic development to local needs.

The functions of the new Local Enterprise Partnerships and ensuring value for money

The functions of the LEPs should not be limited to those of the regional development agencies (RDAs). We firmly believe that LEPs should be ambitious, bespoke and should contain the functionality appropriate to promoting enterprise.

The Regional Growth Fund, and funding arrangements under the LEP system

  We emphasise that while scale of project is important to ensure that there is a palpable return on investment, we would ask that due consideration is given to projects on their merits and that LEPs in rural areas are given equal consideration with those from urban areas.

Government proposals for ensuring co-ordination of roles between different LEPs

  Cooperation with other LEPs and local authorities will be sought on areas of mutual interest.

Arrangements for co-ordinating regional economic strategy · Structure and accountability of LEPs

  In terms of the structure and accountability, we would see the existing Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Economic Forum evolve to take on the governance function of the LEP. Its composition would in broad terms have equal representation of democratically elected councillors and business representatives.

The legislative framework and timetable for converting RDAs to LEPs, the transitional arrangements, and the arrangements for residual spending and liability of RDAs

  We feel that it is imperative that guidance is given as soon as possible, outlining the timelines pertaining to the transitional arrangements from RDAs to LEPs.

Means of procuring funding from outside bodies (including EU funding) under the new arrangements

  The LEP should provide the key strategic direction to procuring funding from outside bodies.

  Cornwall Council, the Council of the Isles of Scilly, along with a wide range of business representatives including the Federation of Small Business (FSB) and the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, are currently working on the development of a Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Enterprise Partnership. We believe that the development of a genuine partnership between local authorities and business, aimed at promoting enterprise in a joined up and focussed manner, will form a key plank in transforming the economy of our area.

  Given that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly rely heavily on public sector employment, and we are currently pursuing a strategy of "transforming" our economy through the opportunities offered by European Convergence funding and the strategic direction of Cornwall Council articulated through its recent economic white paper, the development of an Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has come at an opportune moment. We feel that it will offer Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly the chance to better match economic development to local needs, requirements and to re-profiling the economy away from public sector reliance towards new growth areas, especially in sectors such as low carbon technology.

  We welcome the opportunity to input into the deliberation of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, and we would be more than willing to provide further information in the future if required.

  In terms of the general areas of investigation and debate as outlined on the Parliamentary guidance, we would proffer the following opinions.

The functions of the new Local Enterprise Partnerships and ensuring value for money

  The functions of the LEPs should not be limited to those of the regional development agencies (RDAs) replicated on a smaller scale. We firmly believe that LEPs should be ambitious, bespoke and should contain the functionality appropriate to promoting enterprise. Within Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, the functions that we think will be important to consider include:

    — Creating the conditions for growth, including elements of:

    — Planning.

    — Transport.

    — Housing.

    — Regeneration.

    — Infrastructure.

    — European programmes (ERDF and ESF).

    — Key sectors, including low carbon, digital economy, rural and tourism.

    — Skills development.

  While this list is not exhaustive, and there will need to be a clear demarcation between the strategic direction of the governance structures versus delivery on the ground, we feel that the above list would allow us to start to shape the economic landscape in a way that will allow enterprise to be promoting in a holistic fashion without the usual frustrations of diffuse mechanisms of control and direction.

  In terms of value for money, providing a single governance framework for a wide range of service areas, with a single set of priorities matched to local economic needs and requirements, will ensure that scarce resources are focused where they are required, rather than where false or misleading targets suggest they should be.

  Additionally, existing governance and delivery mechanisms would be used to develop the LEP without the requirement to create something from scratch that could be costly, take time to implement, and also have no track record upon which to build.

The Regional Growth Fund, and funding arrangements under the LEP system

  The role of the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), and how this will impact the funding arrangement for the LEP, is an area where we are still seeking greater guidance on how these arrangements will develop. However, we are heartened to see that the emphasis of the RGF is on rebalancing the economy, namely away from narrow sectoral interests such as finance and also away from the over reliance on the south east.

  Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, with its peripheral location and economy based around a high proportion of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), should be well placed to help support the guiding principles of the RGF. However, the RGF should not be the only source of Convergence match funding coming from central government, and Cornwall's case as the only Convergence area in England (with ring-fenced funds) should be reflected in the funding made available to lever in European funds and ensure the successful delivery of the European programmes.

  The additional emphasis on supporting private sector growth in areas with a high reliance on public sector employment is one that should be encouraged, and as aforementioned we feel that support for cutting edge growth industries through locally targeted funding will provide the stimulus required to help these types of businesses flourish.

  The one point that we would emphasise is that while scale of project is important to ensure that there is a palpable return on investment (ie the guide of £1 million), we would ask that due consideration is given to projects on their merits and that LEPs in rural areas are given equal consideration with those from urban areas. The rural economy forms the lifeblood of many communities throughout Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and we feel that it is crucial that there is a fair playing field when it comes to assessing impact during the bidding process.

Government proposals for ensuring co-ordination of roles between different LEPs

  There will be areas such as airport development where cooperation with other LEPs will be required (ie Bristol), and it will largely be a case of recognising examples of best practice and mutual interest, ensuring that appropriate partnership arrangements are put into place.

Arrangements for co-ordinating regional economic strategy—Structure and accountability of LEPs

  This question is one that perhaps requires further clarification, as with the demise of other regional strategies such as the Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) it is difficult to see what "regional" might mean in the context of developing an economic strategy.

  Within the context of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, the LEP would be required to provide the strategic direction for economic development throughout the area. As such, it would bring together the various strands outlined earlier to provide a comprehensive approach to the promotion of enterprise. However, this would obviously have to have some wider linkages with partner LEPs, especially in areas such as strategic infrastructure, planning and transport, to ensure that decisions are taken with the broadest possible context and impact in mind.

  In terms of the structure and accountability of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Enterprise Partnership, we would see the existing Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Economic Forum evolve to take on the governance function of the LEP. Its composition, while not yet decided upon, would in broad terms have equal representation of democratically elected councillors and business representatives. It is absolutely crucial that the governance arrangements allow for two key facets of the LEP to properly develop: to improve the democratic accountability of local economic development decision making processes, and to ensure that business has the chance to directly influence the decisions taken to promote enterprise.

  In terms of the structure, we would envisage the governance structure of the revamped forum, directly influencing and guiding the delivery of local derived economic development priorities. The delivery of these priorities would fall primarily, although not exclusively, on the Cornwall Development Company (CDC), which will have to requisite capacity to deliver key infrastructural projects. However, it must be acknowledged that delivery can take many different forms, and without wide private sector delivery in a range of key areas, the goals and ambitions of the LEP will not be fulfilled.

The legislative framework and timetable for converting RDAs to LEPs, the transitional arrangements, and the arrangements for residual spending and liability of RDAs

  We feel that it is imperative that guidance is given as soon as possible, through the impending white paper and subsequent legislative frameworks, outlining the timelines, processes and details pertaining to the transitional arrangements from RDAs to LEPs.

  Within Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, where we have major European funding programmes at their half way point (with the ERDF element being administered by the SWRDA with their single pot monies being used as match funding for many projects), any lack of clarity that could lead to delays or postponements of projects could have a hugely detrimental effect on the local economy. The transitional arrangements must be clear, efficient and ensure that key personnel dealing with ongoing programmes are not lost or hampered during the transition phase.

  Existing spending commitments should be honoured, especially where there is an outcome that fits with the aims and requirements of the RGF, and due consideration should be given to vulnerable economies such as that in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly when large scale spending cuts are being considered. Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have a strong track record of delivery, with a leverage ratio of 1:9 when it comes to European funding, and these issues must be taken into consideration when considering major cuts and the impact that they may have.

Means of procuring funding from outside bodies (including EU funding) under the new arrangements

  The LEP should provide the key strategic direction to procuring funding from outside bodies. In terms of European funding, we would see the LEP bringing together the various strands such as ERDF, ESF and RDPE into a single strategic vision that would ensure that the best possible returns are gained from a coherent utilisation of these funds. This should improve on the previous situation where the administration of the various funds was carried out by different organisations, with the results that local coordination was difficult, and outcomes were sometimes compromised.

  It would be envisaged that in broader terms, the LEP should be well placed to bid into funding bodies as it would be able to articulate local priorities and show a broad level of support for any proposals that were submitted. While the Council would have to act as the accountable body (unless the LEP could be formally constituted in an appropriate manner), the LEP would provide a powerful mechanism to match local support to external funding, with the potential to make this funding go much further of local priorities are met.

13 August 2010





 
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