Business bodies condemn Pickles’ LEP plan

BCC appointment sparks united anger

Britain’s leading small business bodies have joined forces to condemn the proposed management strategy for the country’s new network of Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs).

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the Forum for Private Business (FPB) and the Institute of Directors (IoD) have written a joint letter to local government secretary Eric Pickles, urging him not to place the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) in charge of the LEPs on a national level.

The three bodies are annoyed that Pickles has decided to give the BCC such a significant, national role without consulting them; in their letter, they claim their members are not prepared to back the leadership of a rival business organisation.

Pickles plans to hand the BCC a £300,000 grant to set up a management network for the LEPs, which are due to replace the moribund Regional Development Agencies. However, the letter claims this grant is nothing more than a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The letter, published in the Daily Telegraph, demands “an independent, arms-length body set up to deliver the necessary collaboration between LEPs” instead of the BCC, and questions the level of financial resource which have been set aside for the project.

Speaking in response to the criticism, Pickles said that the BCC “came forward with a very strong proposal,” and added that “its existing business network across the country” will prove vital in co-ordinating the new LEPs.

Each of the LEPs will comprise representatives of both business and local government, and will be charged with stimulating economic development in the region – although they will have far less money to spend than the RDAs they are replacing.

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