Local Enterprise Partnerships Must Plan Beyond Short Term Growth

Local Enterprise Partnerships Must Plan Beyond Short Term Growth

Local areas should be thinking about long-term success, not just short term growth, according to a new report published today by the think tank IPPR North.

The report shows that only 2 in 5 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – the bodies set up by Government to drive the local growth agenda – have plans which explicitly address long-term unemployment. Only 4 of the total 39 LEPs have developed plans which demonstrate approaches to learn from experience of the recent recession.

The report says that Government has a simplified view of the economy, viewing it as a global race for marginal growth in which LEPs must compete for funding from central Government through the Local Growth Fund. The report argues that this has resulted in LEPs developing plans which play into the Government’s definition of growth rather than focussing on long-term sustainability.

The report shows that some LEPs have innovated and have created plans which understand the long-term challenges – economic, social and environmental – that their areas face but these are few and far between. The report argues that this innovation has been despite, not because of, national Government policy.

The report recommends that LEP plans should take into account the wider global context and should include a focus on long-term unemployment, infrastructure, business and citizen engagement, and environmental priorities.

The report says that it is important that central Government guidance remains broadly light-touch to give LEP areas the freedom to innovate but that any future guidance should place greater emphasis on the need to build economic resilience.

Ed Cox, Director of IPPR North said:

“The recession has been devastating for many areas of the country and it is important that we learn the lessons from it. George Osborne claims to be pursuing a ‘long-term economic plan’ but the pursuit of short-term economic growth at all costs is defeating this purpose. While it’s tempting to rush for growth, the primary lesson of the downturn shouldn’t be lost. We must build local economies that can withstand the kind of shocks that have been experienced in the recent past.

“Many LEPs are independently building the solid foundations they know are necessary for long-term economic stability, but this appears to be despite, not because of, national Government policy. It’s clear that not only can LEPs learn from one another, but that also Government can learn from LEPs. This could help build a national economic strategy which, by being rooted in solid local foundations, can prove more resilient to future recessions.”

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