Budget is a kick in the teeth for LEPs

Perhaps the Western Daily Press, the paper I edited, hit the nail on the head with the headline: “Investment snub for the West” summed it up.

They were referring to our region not getting any of the 12 new investment zones—most going to so-called Red Wall seats in the Midlands and the North.

That’s politics and we have to accept it.

But what is very difficult to accept is the Chancellor’s Budget statement that sounded very much like a death knell for our local enterprise partnership here in Gloucestershire, GFirstLEP, of which I am privileged to serve as vice chair.

That statement said:” The government is minded to withdraw central government support for LEPs from April 2024.DLUHC(the Department Levelling Up) and the Department of Business and Trade will now consult on these proposals before confirming a decision. The government will publish an updated policy position to confirm next steps by the summer”.

To say the least, this news is very disappointing—that’s to put it mildly after ten years of supporting business and infrastructure transformation in Gloucestershire.

The news hit us on the very day that all seven of our local authorities in the county agreed unanimously to fund our work for the next year. In a note to all of our county MPs in Gloucestershire, my colleague Ruth Dooley as the chair of GFirstLEP said: “As the independent business voice for Gloucestershire, we have no other agenda besides helping our county be the very best place to live and work”.

Ruth is right. Like her, our fellow board members and the business people on our advisory sector groups, are all voluntary and unpaid. We are already integrating our operations with Gloucestershire County Council and it is working well.But to suddenly have this pronouncement from the Chancellor was something of a kick in the teeth. To make matters worse, we have now been given a detailed questionnaire to be completed in four weeks detailing all of our operations.

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