New Anglia LEP conference: Michael Fallon calls for closer links between LEPs and councils

BUSINESS and Enterprise Minister Michael Fallon today challenged Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities to pool their resources in pursuing their economic development objectives.

Speaking at a regional conference held by New Anglia LEP at Wherstead Park, near Ipswich, Mr Fallon strongly defended the Government’s decision to replace the former regional development agencies with private sector-led LEPs.

He said it was not the role of Government to “lay down a blueprint” of what each region should be doing, adding: “It is the people who create businesses who are best placed to help us tackle the barriers to growth.”

However, Mr Fallon said he believed local authorities and LEPs should join forces in promoting economic development, arguing that “there needs to be one team in the region”.

In recent evidence to a Parliamentary committee, Mr Fallon was critical of some LEPs for their lack of pace in passing on Regional Growth Fund (RGF) cash to businesses.

He said yesterday that last week’s latest round of RGF funding – in which New Anglia LEP was awarded �3million to support the creation of 500 new jobs in Suffolk and Norfolk – included a stricter timetable which should ensure that funding began to flow by next April at the latest.

However, he indicated that New Anglia was not among the LEPs he had in mind when voicing his criticism, pointing out that some of the other partnerships had been in place longer.

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Mr Fallon was speaking during a question and answer session chaired by Johnny Hustler, managing director of media company Archant Anglia whose East Anglian Daily Times and Eastern Daily Press titles were joint media partners for the conference.

In similar session later, New Anglia LEP chairman Andy Wood said the creation of a single economic development team for the region was not on the immediate horizon.

“I would never say never, but we are some way from that at the moment,” he said.

However, Dr Wood said the LEP was in dialogue with local authorities in respect of both their economic development and local procurement policies.