MPs call for greater scrutiny of LEPs

5 Jul 19

Accountability in England’s 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships is “a long way off”, MPs have warned.

There is a “clear need” for greater scrutiny and governance around LEPs, which have been handed £12bn of taxpayers money since 2011, the Public Accounts Committee has said.

The partnerships, aimed at stimulating local economic growth and determining local economic priorities, continue to underspend their funding allocation, which raises questions about their ability to deliver complex projects, the PAC noted.

Meg Hillier, chair of the committee, said: “The committee has previously raised concerns about the transparency and governance of LEPs and more action is needed to ensure they are held properly accountable for spending.

“LEPs are supposed to be an engine room of local economic growth but they have been dogged by a lack of local accountability and there is little evidence that they have levered in the promised private sector funds.”

Despite improvements made to LEPs in the last year there is “a long way to go before all LEPs are held to account and their work scrutinised effectively”, the report said.

Improvements must also be made to address LEPs with overlapping boundaries, of which there are 20, according to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government figures from last year. Since then 11 of these have agreed to resolve their boundary overlaps.

The ministry set a target of resolving all boundary disputes by April 2020 but the committee noted that there are still nine unresolved boundaries and the department has no “clear timetable showing how it plans to meet the deadline”.

MHCLG’s claim that £1 of local growth funding could generate £4.81 in benefits through LEPs is an “unsubstantiated estimate” and the department has not measured what value for money LEPs have delivered so far, the MPs said.

Concerns were also raised over whether LEP boards are representative of their local areas. The PAC said that MHCLG’s target of one third of boards being female by April 2020 and total gender parity by 2023 are going to be “difficult to achieve”.

An MHCLG spokesperson said:“Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) play a vital role in supporting the government’s ambition to rebalance the economy so it works for everyone.

“The Public Accounts Committee’s report recognises that improvements have been made by the department to ensure robust governance and financial transparency arrangements are in place.

“We continue to work with LEPs across England to further improve these standards and ensure value for money in local growth spending.”

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