Monday, January 14, 2019

News: Neighbouring LEPs at odds over overlapping boundaries

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Further Government funding for boosting the economy in the Sheffield City Region (SCR) is under threat as the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) wants to keep its current geography, but the neighbouring LEP for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire wants to remove the overlap between districts.

The SCR LEP is at risk of losing out on further funding if a resolution cannot be found.

Led by the private sector, LEPs are the Government's model to promote economic development. They provide the strategic leadership required to set out local economic priorities, and better reflect the natural economic geography of the areas they serve.

Rothbiz reported at the end of 2018 on a review of LEPs and that the Government believes that overlaps dilute accountability and responsibility.

In the SCR, only three of the nine member authorities are currently only a member of one LEP.

Just Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster are solely in the SCR LEP area. Barnsley is also part of the Leeds City Region LEP and West Yorkshire Combined Authority. Non-constituent members of the SCR LEP - Bolsover, Chesterfield, North East Derbyshire, Derbyshire Dales and Bassetlaw - are also part of D2N2, the LEP for Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.

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The SCR LEP has set out a stance to maintain the existing boundaries, adding that there should be no change in the current overlap arrangements.

However, the D2N2 LEP Board position differed from SCR LEP as whilst they also wished to keep the district authorities within their footprint they accepted the government premise that overlaps should be removed.

The waters were muddied when Derbyshire County Council brought legal action before a proposed mayoral election and Chesterfield and Bassetlaw Councils withdrew their applications to be full members of the SCR Combined Authority.

It is expected that Barnsley, which is currently part of the Leeds City Region, will remain with the SCR LEP after the proposed merger between Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership.

To seek to reach a resolution, government have encouraged meetings between LEP chairs and discussions have taken place.

A paper to the SCR LEP board warns that the city region will be penalised financially if it continues to retain its overlapping geography.

A letter to the SCR LEP from James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and Ministerial Champion for the Midlands Engine, warns that funding set aside to support LEPs in the short term may be held back and adds that: "Failure to resolve the overlaps will lead to increasing levels of disadvantage for LEPs.

"If in time, there were cases where overlaps have not been resolved, then your areas may not benefit from the the UK Shared Prosperity Fund."

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is set to replace structural funding which has previously been channelled into South Yorkshire by the EU for economic development projects.

The prospect would be another blow for economic development in the SCR given that delays in implementing the 2015 devolution deal is stopping an estimated £75m a year of Government funding reaching the city region.

Images: Gov.uk

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