Written by David Ralph, Chief Executive of the Heart of the South West LEP
Earlier this year, the Government confirmed that “from April 2024, the Government’s sponsorship and funding of LEPs will cease. The Government will support local and combined authorities to take on the functions currently delivered by LEPs. Where not already delivered by a combined authority, or in areas where a devolution deal is not yet agreed, the Government expects these functions to be exercised by upper tier local authorities, working in collaboration with other upper tier local authorities over functional economic areas as appropriate”.
The LEP Board reviewed the proposed transition arrangements last month, with specific reference to:
- Local Economic Growth Boards, and specifically Business representation and voice; ensuring clear mechanisms through which the voice of business and other partners can have meaningful influence on local economic policy decisions, and routes to ensure collaboration between the public and private sector. Government is encouraging upper-tier local authorities to work with new or existing ‘Economic Growth Boards’ made up of local business leaders and relevant representative bodies.
- Strategic economic planning; producing or updating evidence and intelligence-based economic strategies to support local decision making, including the future contribution of the Great South West Pan-Regional Partnership.
- The ongoing delivery of (legacy) Government-funded programmes. This includes the delivery and monitoring of the last year of Local Growth Funding; future management and monitoring of the Growing Places Fund; future governance of Enterprise Zones; various sector-based activity that supports the delivery of the HotSW Build Back Better plan (such as Nuclear South West and support for Hinkley Point C and its legacy); funding future innovation and research; inward investment; digital skills; South West aerospace, the South West Regional Defence & Security Cluster; future operation of Maritime UK SW; the Access to Finance SW platform; food, farming and tourism.
The Heart of the South West has benefited from excellent relations with local authorities and other partners across the region, and we are working to ensure that the expertise, knowledge, networks, and partnerships that have been created continue to flourish, and that our business communities have appropriate routes to influence as this transition is made.
Specifically, we are working across four workstreams to finalise the transition:
- Transfer of functions and impact on staff (and Board)
- Heart of the South West Growth Hub and future business support
- Transfer of Assets
- Directors’ Liabilities and Responsibilities, including duties under the Public Equality Act
These workstreams culminated in a draft Integration Plan. The plan sets out the necessary tasks between now and the end of March 2024, to fully integrate LEP functions into upper-tier local authorities.
This plan has been submitted to Government, and a final version will be reviewed on 19th January 2024. It will then go to local authorities for Executive sign-off (possibly following a scrutiny process in early February). Once finalised, the plan should be available after the January Board meeting, alongside a possible Level 2 devolution deal for Devon and Torbay.
Until the integration of functions is fully complete, we will continue to work with partners to achieve results for our area, including bringing organisations together from public, private and education sectors. We will continue to ensure that intelligence, expertise, and lessons learnt are taken forward into future working arrangements in each place.
As part of this, in the New Year we intend to publish our Impact Study, and proposals to establish a Social Investment Fund. Our mission of increasing productivity through clean and inclusive growth is more important than ever, and our collaborative approach, which is fundamental to success, means our work will continue to have an impact.
Further details on transition will be shared over the coming weeks. If there are any areas of work that partners would like further detail on or have queries, please do contact me.