The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has today denied that it is against the proposed Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), as suggested in a leaked government letter.
In a letter seen by The Times, Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk warned fellow ministers that many business groups including the BRC had “strong concerns” about government plans for local enterprise.
LEPs are the coalition government’s replacements for the regional development agencies abolished in the recent ‘bonfire of the quangos’.
Richard Dodd, spokesman for the BRC, told Retail Gazette: “It’s very early stages of the consultation process and it is far too premature to say that the government’s plans will not succeed. There is every reason to believe LEPs will thrive.
“I think the letter gives the impression that we oppose the LEP policy but we think they can work as long as they meet certain provisos.”
Dodd reiterated previous requirements set out by the BRC, including ensuring general business involvement within the groups, with business-to-business growth at their heart.
He also highlighted the need for planning and transport decisions to be made by people with sufficient skills and expertise and how members of the LEPs should reflect the geography and nature of the local economy.
“Support from national government is essential to the schemes success, they should not be left to succeed or fail on their own. There should be a central framework set out by central government applied to each LEP,” Dodd added.
Of the 62 applications made for LEP status around the country, only 26 have been approved by the Business Secretary Vince Cable leaving parts of the country without funds to invest in development.
In his letter, Prisk wrote: “There is a strong view in the business community that many in the LEPs lack the ambition to make significant economic impact, undermining our agenda of growth.”