“Ministers ‘fail to measure impact’ of regional funds and local enterprise partnerships:
The government has made “no effort” to measure the impact made by organisations given £12 billion of public money to encourage regional growth, MPs have said.
England’s 38 local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) are run by boards “not representative of their local areas” that lack “scrutiny and accountability” for spending decisions, the public accounts committee said.
LEPs are voluntary partnerships between business leaders, academics and the public sector designed to give more power to regional decision makers to drive growth in their areas. They are supposed to tackle skills shortages, provide small business support and improve infrastructure and transport policy.
However, the spending watchdog said that the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, which is supposed to oversee the partnerships, had not properly tracked the use of the funds the organisations were given. This is because the department does not evaluate the performance of the Local Growth Fund, the funding pot that the partnerships rely on.
A report published today concludes that the government “has made no effort to evaluate the value for money of nearly £12 billion in public funding, nor does it have robust plans to do so”. It receives quarterly performance data from LEPs, but value has not been measured.
LEPs are also blighted by overlapping geographical boundaries, which “dilutes accountability and responsibility”, while a lack of capacity within the organisations has caused them to underspend their funding allocations by more than £1 billion over the past three years. This called into question their ability to deliver complex projects, the committee said.
Concerns were also raised at a lack of expected private sector funding that was supposed to boost the impact of the partnerships.
Concerns were previously raised that a lack of oversight had given rise at some partnerships to secretive cultures, misuse of funds and cronyism.
The government asked the local partnerships to improve local scrutiny of investment decisions and the public accounts committee said that there had been improvements. However, it said there was “still a long way to go for all LEPs to reach the rigorous standards we expect”.
The government told the committee that enterprise partnerships “are not resourced sufficiently to respond to high levels of scrutiny and, as such, the department needs to prioritise what it asks LEPs to commit to”.
Meg Hillier, committee chairwoman, said: “LEPs are supposed to be an engine room of local economic growth but have been dogged by a lack of accountability and there is little evidence that they have levered in the promised private sector funds.”
A ministry spokesman said: “We continue to work with LEPs across England to further improve standards and ensure value for money.”
Source: The Times, pay wall