Clark seeks bids for “single pot” growth fund

22 Mar 16

Communities secretary Greg Clark has opened up a new bidding round for funds available under the government’s ‘single pot’ growth fund deals, with around £1.8bn available for local enterprise partnerships.

Clark announced the latest funding scheme at the annual conference of LEPs.

“We’re completely changing the way business is done in this country, ending the top-down, ‘Whitehall knows best’ mentality of the past and instead putting power back where it belongs – in the hands of local communities,” he told delegates.

“With this offer of a growth deal to communities across the country, we’re backing this devolution revolution with billions of pounds, releasing vital investment in projects across the country to boost local skills, deliver new homes and create jobs.”

The original single pot deals were signed in July 2014, setting out initial annual allocations from the £2bn single pot for economic development, which brought together a series of funds from Whitehall into a single account that could match local economic priorities. This covers policy areas including infrastructure and skills.

Clark said that around £1.8bn remains unallocated, so the 39 LEPs could now submit proposals for a share of the funds.

Already £7.7bn has been allocated to more than 900 projects across England to build vital infrastructure, improve skills and create thousands of jobs, he stated.

Also at the conference, the government’s Northern Powerhouse minister James Wharton said further changes are likely to the role of LEPs as the bodies respond to the government’s devolution programme.

Last week’s Budget set out more details on the government’s devolution deals, including three new pacts with Greater Lincolnshire, East Anglia and the West of England for combined authorities to be led by mayors.

Wharton told delegates the localisation of powers, including to directly elected mayors for combined authorities, was intended to “unlock the huge potential for economic growth” across the country.

LEPs would be key to this drive as they understood the businesses that operate in those areas and the challenges and the opportunities that exist in the different parts of the country, he told today’s event.

“LEPs bring together that public sector and private sector knowledge, public sector and private sector contact, that understanding of how different parts of our economy in different parts of our country work, and I think you have made a significant contribution to driving economic growth in times that have not always been easy,” Wharton said.

He added that the government did not “underestimate the challenges” presented by devolution deals. “We recognise that particularly in the devolution environment and the devolution debate, the role of LEPs will flex and change and evolve to meet the new levers of power being transferred to local level but also the new ways that business engagements are going to be done,” he stated.

Research published at today’s conference highlighted that LEPs have created 115,000 new jobs, trained 78,000 learners, supported 72,000 businesses and created 71,000 new ones, built 16,000 new homes and spent £945m on infrastructure since they were formed in 2012.

Additional reporting by Emma Rumney

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