Doubtless, you will have seen many comments on proposals for local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), the new joint local authority-business bodies to be established to promote economic development in local communities. Uncertainty continues about the roles and responsibilities they might have, but it is interesting to note a survey of local authorities reports that around 70 per cent of responding councils agree or strongly agree that the oversight of planning and transport policies should be among the LEP's core responsibilities and more than 90 per cent agree inward investment should be a core area of interest.
Funding remains an open question. Against the background of cuts anticipated in the forthcoming comprehensive spending review, and assuming that the new Regional Growth Fund will not stretch as far as the potential demands on it, there is going to be increasing support for local government to be given new fundraising powers – to issue local bonds to fund local projects and to introduce tax increment financing. But the Treasury remains to be convinced that there is any scope for “good” borrowing by the public sector.
The challenge for LEPs is a great one – and so are the opportunities.