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Yorkshire LEPs approve merger plans to secure ‘bigger share of the prize’

Two local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) in Yorkshire have both approved merger proposals to create a combined Yorkshire LEP responsible for billions of business and infrastructure investment.

The new organisation will be responsible for investment to boost economic growth and social inclusion, covering a region of 4,000 square miles comprising towns, cities, and rural and coastal areas, which represents 8% of England.

Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership each approved the merger at board meetings held this week.

It’s claimed that the deal will build on and strengthen the LEPs in preparation for taking on responsibility for the UK shared prosperity fund, which will replace the European funding after Brexit – potentially worth millions of pounds each year.

This development is a result of a government review into LEPs nationally to remove overlapping LEP geographies, which was announced by James Brokenshire in the summer.

The chairs of the two existing LEPs released a joint statement, saying: “Our respective LEPs have achieved a great deal over the past seven years, from putting in place nationally acclaimed rural business support schemes to securing major investment for new transport and broadband infrastructure.

“Now we have an opportunity to do even more for the rural, coastal and urban communities we represent, by bringing together elements of our existing LEP geographies into a combined engine for extraordinary economic growth that will enable all parts of our region to prosper.”

Roger Marsh of Leeds City Region LEP and David Kerfoot of York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP also argued this will give them the opportunity to learn from each other’s successes.

“Of course, there will be details to resolve over the coming months, but we approach this new phase with a clear sense of the opportunity we have to secure a bigger share of the prize through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and a shared optimism of what we can achieve together for our region and all its communities,” they concluded.

The two existing LEPs will now likely form a transition sub-group to look at the key issues to address as they approach the merger, which is expected to be completed by April 2020.

Devolution and investment in the north of England will be discussed extensively at next year's EvoNorth, where LEPs from across the region will come together for a series of debates, Q&As, roundtables and networking. 

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