Is our LEP already in the doggie dirt?

The more Owl reads about what our Local Enterprise Partnership should be doing and what it does do, the more it seems that the LEP inhabits a totally different universe to us where its own rules don’t apply

Check out this publication from December 2014: Her Majesty’s Government LEP Framework. And then contrast it with what has happened in the two plus years since it was published.

Click to access bis-14-1241-local-enterprise-partnership-LEP-national-assurance-framework.pdf

Here are a few choice highlights – let’s start with one that appears on the very last page of the document (page 17):

Business cases must be published (and publicised) before funding approval decision is made so that external comment is possible. Opinions expressed by the public and stakeholders must be available to LTB members when decisions are being take.”

Does anyone recall being consulted about ANYTHING by our LEP? Has anyone SEEN a business case for anything?

And there is more:

“… 3.1 It is important that LEPs have clear arrangements in place which enable effective and meaningful engagement of local partners and the public. They should operate transparently giving people confidence that decisions made are proper, based on evidence, and capable of being independently scrutinised.
3.2 We expect LEPs to take a proportionate approach to sharing and publishing information, using the prompts set out below as the basis for determining what they release. We fully expect that there will be information which is not appropriate for publication – including information that is commercially confidential, and expect LEPs to use their own discretion in determining what shouldn’t be published. Our expectation however, is that the public should see that the LEP is applying similar standards of transparency as other public sector organisations over decisions it makes over public funding. Within reason we would therefore expect LEPs to:
• have a dedicated website through which local partners and the public can keep in touch with progress on implementing the Growth Deal, access key documents etc;
• publish their arrangements for making, and recording decisions, and for ensuring that papers, decisions, minutes, agendas etc are published in line with existing local authority rules and regulations [access to information, Schedule 12A of the LGA 1972, as amended by the FOI 2000];
• through their accountable local authority, ensure that Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulation requests are dealt with in line with relevant legislation;
• have a published conflicts of interest policy, register of interests covering any decision makers, and published complaints policy;
• ensure that there is appropriate local engagement – both with public and private stakeholders to inform key decisions and with the general public around future LEP strategy development, and progress against delivery of the SEP, including key projects and spend against those;
• publish arrangements for developing, prioritising, appraising and approving projects, with a view to ensuring that a wide range of delivery partners can be involved (see also Part 5 on value for money below);
• clearly set out the LEP’s priorities and mechanisms for maximising the social value of its investment funding and activities so that partners and beneficiaries can play an active role in the programme. …

… 4.2 The lead local authority, working with relevant officers will need to put in place appropriate arrangements for the proper use and administration of funding, building on the existing local government systems, and which fall under the annual audit of the local authorities accounts. The accountable local authority would also be responsible for ensuring that decisions are made in accordance with the local LGF assurance framework. …

… 5.4 Across both of these aspects, LEPs should ensure that they have robust processes in place which ensure all funding decisions are based on impartial advice. The arrangements set out in the local assurance framework will need to ensure a clear separation between those acting as scheme promoters and those advising decision makers will be maintained, so that the LEP is acting on impartial advice on the merits of (potentially competing) business cases.

5.5 LEPs should also ensure that arrangements are in place which support the active management of risk across all matters for which the LEP is responsible, including but not limited to propriety and value for money issues. This should include having a named individual of appropriate seniority who is responsible for the identification and management of risk.”

ANYONE SEEN THE IMPARTIAL ADVICE? Until recently, we had no published agendas or minutes, and even now we get only notes not full minutes.

But what can we do? Who do we tell? The government doesn’t want to know, it just wants an annual report. Our councils? No, they have gone into this with little or no consultation.

It is left to us, the public to attempt to hold these people to account. And how do they respond?

Listen to the deafening silence.

Billions of pounds being given to a few businessmen and even fewer career politicians, some of whom have heavily vested interests.

And the blame for this cannot now be left at the door of Labour or coalition politicians.

It is a national scandal that no-one powerful enough is prepared to call out. And who suffers – us.