LEPs and REconomy – an opportunity or a waste of your time?

Published on April 30, 2014 in Blog, Economic enablers with 3 Comments
leps map
Shortly after the 2010 general election the new Coalition Government invited local government and businesses to form Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in England. These LEPs replace the 10 Regional Development Agencies with a more “bottom up” approach to economic development. 39 LEPs have now been established across all regions in England.

From a Transition and REconomy perspective, LEPs can be important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they have access to significant funding streams (mostly European) aimed at economic development. Secondly, they have significant influence over the direction that economic development takes in each region – they decide what the priorities should be for investment in roads, buildings and facilities in the area.

Given the remit of REconomy is to support community-led local economic development to help transform our economic system, there should be opportunities to connect with local LEPs and see what mutually beneficial relationships could be built.

However, LEPs vary quite widely around the country in terms of structure and approach. It may well be possible and useful for a TI or local REconomy Project to engage with its local LEP, but it’s also worth acknowledging that some interpret their remit in a pretty narrow and traditional way, so TIs will need to gauge for themselves whether the effort is worthwhile.  The stories gathered here show where some TIs/groups have got to…

Experiences from the Transition trenches

Steve Marsden on New Anglia LEP

In early 2011, LEPs were invited to submit proposals to act as Pathfinder LEPs for a variety of themes associated with regulatory reform, business support and economic development. Pathfinder LEPs are tasked to develop and share best practice with other LEPs though the LEP Network.

In September 2011, New Anglia LEP, which covers Norfolk and Suffolk, secured the role of Green Economy Pathfinder. The LEP launched its Green Economy Manifesto in the House of Lords in May 2012 and the Green Economy Pathfinder Board (the “GEP”) is now pressing ahead with its Manifesto delivery programme.

NEW ANGLIA LOGO

The Manifesto embraces the notion of transition, using the term throughout the document, and specifically mentions the LEP’s intention to collaborate with what it describes as the “Transition Towns network”. However, until recently there has been little common ground visible and few opportunities for collaboration. This could now change following the GEP’s recent decision to focus on resilience as a strategic theme.

The possibility now exists for collaboration in areas such as the relationship between resilience and wellbeing, resource efficiency, water, energy and supply chain re-localisation. The GEP has now started to explore the potential for collaboration on these and related themes with the Transition Network and with organisations including the New Economics Foundation and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

As the GEP resilience theme develops, its pathfinder role should lead to its work in this area being disseminated to the other 38 LEPs across England, and potentially beyond.

Transition contact Steve Marsden.

Graham Truscott on the D2N2 LEP

Derby Carbon Initiative (DCI), a group formed by enterprise-minded members from local Transition groups, has attempted to influence the D2N2 LEP since before the LEP’s inception. DCI promotes a low-carbon, climate aware, resource-efficient economy with social and environmental justice. Presentations have been made and links are maintained as best we can with local council officials, council members, renaissance boards, business organisations, businesses and academics.

D2N2_Still

Successes, (if they can be called that), include persuading the chair of D2N2 to visit and meet Bristol Green Capital  members and influencing the drafting of a low-carbon strategy for the region.   As a result, the draft strategy document carries a specific  one line reference to Transition Belper on page 11, but did so only under the “community” heading. It  seemingly failed to grasp the integrated approach or potential that we have advocated.

The LEP’s failure to credit Transition contributions to the document or respond to our comments on both this document and the wider LEP draft strategic plan have been disappointing.  We have sought credibility wherever and however we can, and some of the REconomy projects in the region may help ultimately, but in my opinion it is fundamentally easier and safer for the LEP to pick up the phone to Toyota, Rolls-Royce, Boots or Bombardier (i.e, big local employers) than it is to call us. We are currently seeking to influence the academics who have been tasked by the LEP with various strategic delivery activities.

Transition contact Graham Truscott.

Nick Sherwood on the Marches LEP

Herefordshire REconomy group have followed our local LEP strategy development since 2011, trying to make openings for dialogue. Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford/Wrekin comprise the Marches LEP – a rural, sparsely populated area bordering Wales, the mainstay being agriculture with nodes of SME-led industry and a new ‘Skylon Park’ enterprise zone. Strengths include well-developed Transition/environmental groups and agencies, with county-wide and cross-border organisations.

marches lep logo

The REconomy ‘economic evaluation’ pilot included Herefordshire and those reports (downloadable here) have provided a good jumping-off point for LEP-related conversations: dialogue has recently begun with LEP Board members, LEP officers, MPs, councillors, council officers and friendly VCSSE organisations to open the question of how the LEP’s SEP (Strategic Economic Plan) and SIF proposals can work with REconomy-inspired pilots to create a sustainable, resilient local economy.  We plan to broaden our base to cover the whole of the Marches LEP area and across the border into Wales.

Successes include: a recent breakthrough statement by a LEP Board-member headlined to the business community that working together with VCSSE organisations on economic strategy was vital; an example of this potential is Hereford Make CIC – a grass roots initiative promoted by REconomy comprising workshops and studios in redundant industrial buildings, enabling micro start-ups.

Transition contact Nick Sherwood.

IPPR LEPs project

The Institute of Public Policy Research (North) has recently started a project to “identify ways in which Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) can develop local economic resilience within their Strategic Economic Plans, and share learning between LEPs on local resilience initiatives”. We are in contact with this project, we share a common funder and some common aims, and are exploring ways to work more closely.

Interested in your local LEP?

Steve has initiated an informal group of Transition/REconomy people who are trying to engage with their LEP, and so far we have had a couple of useful and supportive meetings over skype. This includes Kate Royston from Transition Tavistock. and Frances Northrop from Transition Town Totnes who are having some success connecting with the Heart of the South West LEP. We’ll include a report from Kate about her experiences once that’s available.

If you are working with your LEP, or trying to, then please contact Steve and come along to the next group meeting to tell us about your experiences.

 

With many thanks for the sections by Steve, Nick & Graham.

 

3 Reader Comments

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  1. Hi. This clearly varies a great deal from one place to another. Our area is in two LEPs. I tried several times to get one of them to consider energy, framing it in ways they’d understand about energy cost and security, but failed. They said that their agenda is set by business and this isn’t an issue that business has asked to be addressed. Very much a waste of time. The other has done a bit more, I think mostly because of concerned and active local authorities in their patch.

    • Fiona Ward says:

      Thanks WinACC – if you wanted to get in touch with me or Steve we’d love to hear more about your experiences. Thanks, Fiona

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