LEP boss says organisation will survive despite losing government funding

Paddy Bradley

The Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership has vowed to continue with its work despite the government axing its funding.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt announced in his budget that funding for the organisations, which replaced regional development agencies, is being cut.

There are currently six LEPs in the South West and the Chancellor’s announcement has placed a huge question mark over the future of the organisations.

However, Paddy Bradley chief executive of the Swindon and Wiltshire LEP, said the organisation would continue as a viable business.

He said: “We are a not-for-profit limited company and proud of the work we are doing to encourage economic growth in Swindon and Wiltshire.

“The activities we carry out to fulfil the government’s defined functions of a local enterprise partnership are only part of what we do.

“We will work with our colleagues in both Swindon and Wiltshire Councils to ensure the transfer of any responsibilities is handled professionally.

“We do intend, however, to continue as a viable business managing a range of programmes to help businesses in our area to be resilient and grow.”

In his Spring Budget  Jeremy Hunt said he was minded to withdraw government support and will return budgets and powers to local councils.

A four-week consultation is currently under way with LEPs, local authorities, and mayoral combined authorities.

The Chancellor told Parliament: “The government is committed to empowering democratically elected local leaders at every opportunity.

“To this end, the government intends for the functions of Local Enterprise Partnerships to be delivered by local government in the future.

“Therefore, the government is minded to withdraw central government support for LEPs from April 2024.”

Mark Bretton, chairman of the national LEP Network, said: “Our meetings have revealed the full scale of the challenge and complexity facing officials – most LEPs are incorporated companies, a structure insisted upon by Government.

“Unravelling this with the trailing liabilities and accountability for significant sums of money will not be simple, yet we need to do all of this whilst continuing to deliver for our local communities.

“For more than five years LEPs have been scrutinised and on every occasion passed muster. The importance of the role of business in driving a future enterprise economy has never been more important.

“To say we remain puzzled as to why government wants to put at risk a growth engine that has worked so well for them is an understatement, but if that is what they want let’s get this done professionally, in a timely fashion and with respect.”


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