Local Enterprise Partnership scrutiny: Owl says “I told you”!

From Conclusions and Recommendations of Public Accounts Committee Report on Cities and Local Growth:

9. It is alarming that LEPs are not meeting basic standards of governance and transparency, such as disclosing conflicts of interest to the public.

LEPs are led by the private sector, and stakeholders have raised concerns that they are dominated by vested interests that do not properly represent their business communities.

There is a disconnect between decisions being made by local business leaders and accountability working via local authorities. It is therefore crucial that LEPs demonstrate a high standard of governance and transparency over decision making, at least equal to the minimum standards set out by government in the assurance framework.

It is of great concern that many LEPs appear not be meeting these minimum standards. The scale of LEP activity and the sums involved necessitate that LEPs and central government be pro-active in assuring the public that decisions are made with complete probity.

The fact that 42% of LEPs do not publish a register of interests is clearly a risk to ensuring that decisions are made free from any actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

The varying presentation and detail of financial information across LEPs also makes it difficult to draw meaningful conclusions or make comparisons across LEPs on how they spend public money.

Recommendation: The Department should enforce the existing standards of transparency, governance and scrutiny before allocating future funding to LEPs. LEPs themselves also need to be more transparent to the public by, for example, publishing financial information.