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Local Enterprise Partnerships

Volume 523: debated on Thursday 17 February 2011

I am pleased to say that we are making good progress with regard to local enterprise partnerships. Indeed, I can announce today that we have cleared the London enterprise partnership. That brings us to a total of 31, covering 87% of England's population.

I thank the Minister for his answer. Naturally, I am rather disappointed that Dorset has not yet found a solution. May I have an update on progress towards the inclusion of Dorset within a local enterprise partnership? What timelines are the Government working to? If it is necessary for support to be given, will that be given?

As the hon. Lady knows and we have discussed, Dorset has the challenge that Poole and Bournemouth face eastwards economically but the rest of the county does not. So we have worked with local partners, and offered them an opportunity: once they have decided, they will come back to us and we will help to ensure that they progress with their enterprise partnership as quickly as possible.

Can the Minister advise on the timings of the announcements of the agreement of new LEPs? How is he guaranteeing private sector leadership for LEPs?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. With 87% covered in less than 22 weeks—unlike the progress that we often saw from Labour—there has been positive progress. On the private sector issue, LEPs are specifically business-led, and most encouragingly, in her local LEP, eight of the 14 participants—over 60%—are from the private sector. That is a very good example, which I know other enterprise partnerships intend to follow.

In their response to the Select Committee report on LEPs, the Government have said that they will not impose performance management criteria on them. Will the Minister explain just how the performance of LEPs will be monitored and assessed?

The whole point about partnerships is that local priorities will lead, not central diktat. That is why we believe in ensuring that we enable partnerships to come forward and that they judge the issue on how they break down the local barriers to growth. We are committed to ensuring that the economy grows; these will be excellent vehicles to achieve that locally.

Well, we are clear what LEPs and businesses are asking for, even if Ministers are not. We believe that assets and funding intended for local growth in our regions should stay there. We have put forward a detailed strategy on skills and access to European and regional development agency money—the tools that LEPs need to do their job. But the Secretary of State is not passing any assets on, and is twisting the arms of RDAs over it. Today’s Local Government Chronicle reveals the west midlands RDA disposal plan—more than half its assets up for sale. The north-east regional development plan that I have seen says the RDA has been told that it must help address the fiscal deficit. How can the Secretary of State now deny that he is flogging off our local family silver to keep the Treasury happy? Has he not left LEPs in the lurch?

We got there eventually, Mr Speaker.

The RDAs have brought forward assets plans, which the Government are looking at. In the growth plan, we set out clearly how we will deal with them. The idea that we will be selling off the silver is a nonsense. I am sorry that Labour Members have nothing positive or intelligent to say about the matter.