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25.11.14

Lack of funding and CEO resignation could see LEP Network revert to Whitehall

Alison Porter has resigned as chief executive of the LEP Network amid claims she was overwhelmed by a job that was bigger than expected, under-resourced and had a lack of Whitehall support.

A leaked letter signed by Alex Pratt, chair of the LEP Network, made the claims that coordinating the 39 LEPs around the country had become too much for Porter, as they have not only become bigger than envisaged but also politicised because of the regional devolution agenda.

Announcing Porter’s departure on 8 December, the letter says that the LEP Network is “seriously under-resourced for such a critical role at such an important time”. It states: “The impact of the exponential rise in interest in LEPs both from those who would see us fail as much as the few in the system who support our success, is that the level of work and expectation of the CEO role has become way more than a full-time commitment.”

It continued: “An example of where this has already impacted is that we are probably one of [the] few highly interested groups [that] have not spoken as one in relation to shaping the autumn statement. We have missed an important opportunity. If we don’t have the resources to submit [to] something as important as the autumn statement, it shows you how stretched are the team.”

Pratt adds that with a lack of funding and no chief executive the role of the LEP Network will likely have to pass back to Whitehall or the LGA.

“The Network,” claimed the letter, “is now officially overwhelmed and preparing to throw in the towel.”

The letter was revealed in an exchange in the House of Commons last week where Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, accused Vince Cable of overseeing a chaotic programme.

He said: “The network is now officially overwhelmed and preparing to throw in the towel. Four years ago you said your regional policy was Maoist and chaotic; does this not demonstrate that very little has changed?”

However, Cable argued the LEPs are doing a better job than the old regional development agencies (RDAs).

He said: “The local enterprise network is working exceedingly well. They are of course voluntary organisations and some of them are outstanding and innovative, others struggle – as this one has done.

“It’s much better we have a regional network that is business-led and related to the geography of the area, which the RDAs manifestly did not have.”

Speaking after his letter was revealed in the Commons, Pratt told the Northern Echo: “The workloads of LEPs and the network have increased considerably given the enhanced focus on local growth enhancement, including the addition of growth hubs and skills and employment pilots.

“The chief executive was recruited in a part-time capacity, which is now unsustainable given the demands on the role, the devolution discussions and additional planning required in advance of an election, and has decided to step down.

“We are in discussions with government around the need for increased support.”

Update 28/11

Alison Porter commented on this article on the PSE website. She said: "I was not overwhelmed simply working five days but being paid for three - all too common a scenario for women I suspect. I also had an excellent relationship with the Whitehall Departments I worked with."

(Image: c. LEP Network)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email us directly at opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

Alison Porter   26/11/2014 at 23:18

I was not overwhelmed simply working 5 days but being paid for 3 - all too common a scenario for women I suspect. I also had an excellent relationship with the Whitehall Departments I worked with. Oh and also you have the wrong logo for the LEP Network.

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