The calibre of business involvement in local enterprise partnerships could be compromised unless the Government clarifies their powers according to the team developing the new ‘‘Greater Birmingham’’ operation.
Birmingham Chamber Group chief executive Jerry Blackett has now written to Business Secretary Vince Cable and called for immediate guidance as the LEP’s interim board prepares the ground for the appointment of a permanent board in the spring.
Bridget Blow, the interim chair of the LEP development board which represents business and local authority interests from Birmingham, Solihull, East Staffs, Lichfield, Tamworth, Bromsgrove and Cannock, said the top business personalities in the region would only be attracted to the organisation if it had real teeth.
“In order to attract the very best business leaders to the LEP board, we need to demonstrate that the LEP has decision-making powers and influence,” she said. “This makes securing relevant powers very important to us. In these early stages we are identifying short and long-term priorities, and the best way of delivering them. What powers are needed will become clearer as these priorities are firmed up.
“But it is clear that LEPs will only attract the quality of business involvement that we are all seeking if the LEPs have substantial capacity to invest, or facilitate investment, in economic and business growth.
"We need a legal status for the LEP that would enable the local authorities to delegate their powers and resources up to the LEP – for example pooling part of their capital budgets
“Related to this, there is the power for local authorities to use their monies in other parts of the LEP, like Accelerated Development Zones (ADZs).
“Business representatives on the LEP board must be given the power to vote on decisions involving spending public money. As I understand it, the current situation is that only local authority members of a LEP Board can vote on matters involving public funds.”
The ‘Greater Birmingham’ LEP was approved last month as part of an overhaul by the Government in business support following the abolition of the regional development agencies.
"The LEPs are supposed to be business led with a business chair although local authorities will play a key role, particularly in controlling access to public finance.