Local Enterprise Partnerships explained

Find out more about Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and how they are supporting local small businesses…

Every incoming government brings with it a large shiny new broom. So, when the coalition government came to power back in 2010, solving perceived failings of business support across the UK was a high priority.

At the time, the government pledged to replace Regional Development Agencies which had been accused of layering red tape and failing to deliver.

In its place came Enterprise Zones, Core City deals, The Growing Places Fund, and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to put regions in control of their own destiny.

The government invited businesses and councils to come together to form LEPs whose geography would properly reflect the “natural economic areas of the UK”. And in the 2011 budget, former chancellor George Osborne announced the creation of the first 11 enterprise zones – specific geographical areas within LEPs’ boundaries.

Fast forward to 2016 and there are now 39 LEPs and 24 enterprise zones across the country with a major tranche of funding made available for LEPs to draw down on.

While the coalition government is no longer, the Conservative government has pledged to create 26 new enterprise zones to “spread their benefit” to smaller and more rural areas.

Here, we take a closer look at what LEPs are and how your business could take advantage of them…

What are Local Enterprise Partnerships?

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) were announced by the government’s department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in June 2010, as a scheme to drive economic growth and business boosting projects across the UK.

As a partnership between local councils and local businesses, LEPs act to determine the best course of action to support businesses within their specific region.

By enabling businesses to work directly with local authorities, the partnerships were designed to spread growth and entrepreneurship across the UK by putting the people best placed to make local decisions in the driving seat.

Why were Local Enterprise Partnerships introduced?

Following the 2010 Emergency Budget, it was announced that LEPs would replace the nine Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), which had been developed by the Labour government in 1999.

RDAs were government-funded quangos. Consisting of a chair and a board of 15 people appointed by ministers from BIS, RDAs were designed with the similar aim of boosting business across UK regions.

As RDAs were required to report directly to the Business, Innovation and Skills department, they were criticised by the Taxpayers’ Alliance pressure group for creating an “unnecessary and expensive layer of bureaucracy”.

Consequently, LEPs were formed in an effort to save money and hand control over to the regions.

To find out where your nearest LEP is, click the buttons above or below to view our Local Enterprise Partnership directory. 

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