Place, the final growth frontier #GrowthDeal

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The Government has today announced details of the funding and capabilities to be devolved from Whitehall to Local Enterprise Partnerships as part of Local Growth Deals.

From our point of view this is a welcome step in the story of devolving more power to LEPs which will allow them to improve their local business environment to drive competitiveness.

Given the tight fiscal environment it's also encouraging to see the funding devolved being prioritised on place based policy interventions such as transport and broadband provision. The Government should be commended for focussing on dull but effective projects rather than being tempted by shiny things which they can open.

A number of projects funded include those which cut across LEP boundaries which is something we've previously argued is important. This comes alongside the capabilities and flexibilities which have also been announced.

Over the coming months negotiations will continue as LEPs put their delivery plans into action and seek to rejig their Growth Deals to match previous expectations against today's reality.

Change cometh in the morning?The one constant in local economic development over the last few years has been change. The Regional Growth Fund, Enterprise Zones, Growing Places Fund, City Deals, EU Structural and Investment Funds, University Enterprise Zones, Wave 2 City Deals and the Single Local Growth Fund have all been announced, negotiated and devolved in rapid succession.

Now is the time for all of these to bed in, giving LEPs the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to deliver before even more funding and capabilities are devolved in the future.

This incremental approach allows lessons to be learned and applied and reduces the risks inherent in a big bang approach to devolution. It also gives LEPs the opportunity to move from strategizing to delivery and then evaluation.

This provides some context to our cautious welcome of the Adonis Review. Jumping from where we are now to the reorganisation suggested before LEPs have the opportunity to prove themselves risks creating a situation where LEPs can never focus on delivery and providing useful feedback on what does and doesn't work at the local level. We covered some of our thoughts in a previous blog post on the issue.

What do you think?


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