Making local economies matter: a review if policy lessons from the Regional Development Agencies and Local Enterprise Partnerships
By John Healey MP with foreword from Ed Balls and Andrew Adonis Published May 2014
This major new report by John Healey MP and Les Newby recommends a radical and accelerated devolution of powers to LEPs to deal with the widening economic divide. The report reviews in detail the policy lessons from the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and concludes that more jobs, growth and wealth generated locally are a vital part of a balanced economy. The report argues for a fresh commitment to stronger support for England’s local economies and that active policies to promote economic development at local and regional level are essential. It shows that RDA achievements compare well against the LEPs that replaced them, and reveals that from 2000 to 2010 the poorer English regions were able to achieve almost the same rate of GVA growth as the prosperous regions but since 2010 early data show the gap in growth rates is five times greater. However, the report concludes that going back to square one will not succeed and that rather than sweeping away the current structures it recommends drawing on the experience of both RDAs and LEPs to make LEPs fit for the future. Based on policy lessons from the last Labour Government’s experience with RDAs and echoing key recommendations from Lord Heseltine’s 2012 Growth Review, the report calls for fewer, stronger, business-led LEPs – with extra powers, larger independent funds and a common sense approach to the areas they cover. To make sure that local businesses and communities work well together, the report proposes that there should be joint local government sign-off on the LEP’s economic strategy to unlock substantial single pot of funds. And to guarantee clear accountability in Westminster, a single Government department should have responsibility for LEPs.