This one day, seminar style event will focus on the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), their relationship to local authorities and provide attendees with skills, knowledge and ideas to better engage with them. A practical event which CfPS hopes will help plug some of the potential democratic deficit which currently exists
Local growth is a central priority for councils – whether shire districts, counties or unitaries – for two reasons. Firstly, councils want to promote economic growth to enhance the prosperity of local residents – improving people’s lives to increase the level of high quality employment, taking pressure off demand-led services and reducing deprivation in the process. Secondly, local growth is good for councils’ balance books. As national debate on the localisation of business rates intensifies, we can be certain that the critical importance of this funding stream will catapult economic development to the top of every council’s agenda.
CfPS has a track record in helping councils to grapple with and understand these kinds of challenges. Councillors will want and need to assure themselves that decisions made by councils, and their partners, delivers the kind of growth outcomes that will make a real, positive different to local people. There has to be democratic oversight of this activity.
The need for this oversight and accountability is particularly urgently felt in the case of LEPs. These bodies have huge responsibility for large amounts of public money – money which they can decide how and where to invest to promote growth across the areas for which they have responsibility. Increasingly, too, Government recognising that shortcomings in their governance exist.
Councils may have tried to engage with LEPs in the past and been rebuffed. They may think that attempting to “hold LEPs to account” is a fruitless endeavour. But this position is changing. Now is the time to rethink how scrutiny of LEPs works in practice – in the context of a more reflective governance environment amongst LEPs, at national and local level. In so doing, scrutiny can and should find itself at the heart of securing a financially sustainable future for local people, and for councils themselves – a critically important role that it would be dangerous to neglect or let pass by.
CfPS is holding two seminars, in Birmingham and Leeds, to explore with scrutiny practitioners how they can capitalise on these opportunities and place scrutiny on the stage as an important partner in the growth agenda. These practically-focused workshop-style events will aim to give delegates the tools necessary to return to their councils and begin the task of LEP relationship-building – yielding real results quickly. Reflecting the importance and timeliness of this work, we are offering this workshop to delegates at a discount on our usual rates, to maximise the opportunity to secure attendance from members and officers from as wide a range of councils as possible.
The outcomes of these workshops will be used to influence and inform national research with CfPS continues to carry out on LEP governance, and local accountability systems for LEPs.