East Anglia: Division over BCC’s role in national LEP network

THE New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Suffolk Chamber of Commerce have welcome the Government’s appointment of British Chambers of Commerce to run a new group designed to give the network of LEPs around the country a national voice.

But the move has been attacked by other business groups, including the Institute of Directors and the Federation of Small Businesses, which say they were not consulted.

David Frost, BCC’s outgoing director general, has agreed to chair the new network which the Government says will be inclusive of other business organisations.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said: “British Chambers of Commerce came forward with a very strong proposal and with its existing business network across the country it is really well placed to anchor business at the centre of new local enterprise.”

Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams and joint chairman of the New Anglia LEP, said: “I welcome the Government’s decision to support a local enterprise partnership network through the British Chambers of Commerce.

“It is important that areas work together to tackle common issues and share their experiences as we strive to create more private sector jobs and deliver sustainable economic growth.”

And Peter Funnell, president of Suffolk Chamber, added: “David Frost will bring his considerable expertise developed at the British Chambers of Commerce to the role and will encourage best practice nationally. The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, supported by both Suffolk and Norfolk chambers of commerce, will be an active partner in this work.’’

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But the IoD, the FSB and the Forum of Private Business all expressed concern over the BCC’s appointment.

Miles Templeman, director general at the IoD, said: “We are surprised and disappointed that the Government has appointed the British Chambers of Commerce to head this �300,000 quango with no consultation or discussion with other business groups.”

And John Walker, FSB national chairman, said the move “risks isolating both those businesses which are not a member of any membership body and those who are members of the groups that haven’t been included from LEPs.”