Mayor looks to bring unfit LEP under combined authority ‘single umbrella’

Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough James Palmer has this week written to the LEP in his area suggesting a new model of local governance that would bring the organisation under a “single umbrella” with the combined authority (CA).

In a letter to the Greater Cambridgeshire Greater Peterborough LEP (GCGP), Palmer warned that the body was “no longer able to fulfil its purpose for which it was established.”

It follows the news that central government was withholding funds from the GCGP whilst the National Audit Office conducts an investigation into the LEP.

“It is important that we provide leadership and act urgently and decisively to restore trust, including that of the wider business community and central government,” the region’s mayor said. “It is clear that GCGP LEP is no longer able to fulfil the purpose for which it was established and specifically to provide much-needed help and financial support for local businesses.

“Furthermore, the current position is creating reputational damage and will inhibit the ability of the area as a whole to attract inward investment at a time when we face such a huge deficit in our infrastructure.

“It is important that we provide leadership and act urgently and decisively to restore trust, including that of the wider business community and central government.”

The letter was also copied to DCLG minister Jake Berry and has the full support of Palmer’s CA cabinet.

“We are focused on and committed to delivering significant growth in the local economy but none of this can be achieved without a really strong relationship between business and local democratic leadership,” he continued.

“For that reason, we have written to the GCGP Board, with an outline offer of support and assistance to overhaul the current set-up.

“We are concerned that government’s Growth Funding for the local area is currently on hold and are ready and willing to work with GCGP LEP to put in place a new model which would be more effective, efficient and produce better returns for local businesses and those wishing to invest in our region.

“We very much hope they accept our proposal and that we can work together to find a way through this unfortunate situation.”

Robin Howe, deputy mayor of the CA, explained that the organisation has looked at different models and solutions to take the proposal forward as quickly as possible.

“We envisage a future where the CA and LEP operate under a single umbrella, presenting ourselves to businesses and residents with singular ambition, objectives and delivery focus, whilst saving money for the tax payer,” Howe stated.

“We envisage a Business Board with representation from the key sectors that will deliver the national and local industrial strategy.

“This would be a respected and powerful group which is focused on strategy and the programmes that will make a real difference to the growth of the area.

“There is a need for us to act urgently on this matter and ensure that the hard work and significant progress that has been made this year is not thrown off course.”

Palmer will be writing about the region’s devolution progress and his work as mayor thus far in the upcoming edition of PSE, for which you can subscribe for free here.

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