A Correspondent doubts LEP interest in, or consideration for, small-to-medium businesses

From a local correspondent who keeps a close eye on our LEP and doubts its interest in, or consideration for, small-to-medium businesses in the area:

“I instinctively feel that both the Heart of South West [LEP] + Great South West [`Powerhouse`]  have political influence  – I know [this] has featured in your East Devon blog, along with the fact that at their public meetings  – which are mainly PR + media –friendly – very little info is given out `commercial confidentiality`.  Here`s the composition of HotSW`s present Board:  https://heartofswlep.co.uk/about-the-lep/our-board/ – so Exeter City + Torbay & Plymouth unitaries are represented.

It all goes back to 2016 when Savid Javid was Secretary of State for Communities etc   https://www.backthesouthwest.co.uk/  and he was discreetly `banging LEP heads together` to cajole them to put in collective bids for funding instead of burdening his office with dozens of separate bids. 

With the ERDF money  https://heartofswlep.co.uk/european-regional-development-fund-erdf/  – coming to a close [thanks to Brexit] and Covid-19 distracting HMG`s focus it`s difficult to see where the next tranch of funding is coming from. 

Recently, the day Boris had announced his wonder £5bn for various infrastructure improvements he had in mind for schools, hospitals, roads and housing ]  that same evening on BBC tv Spotlight S.W., Tim Jones [Chair: S.W. Business Council] was frantic about the possibility of the Gt South West only getting `a few crumbs of cash from No.10`s table` after W. Midlands + Northern Powerhouse mopping up the bulk of Boris` bounty.

So now, somehow between the LEPs and the two Powerhouses [The Great South West + Western Gateway  ] they try to draw down funds from HMG, while at the same time demonstrating that they are `working with government`


Three Local Enterprise Partnerships, seven county and unitary authorities [so a lot of Tory etc input there, along with so many Tory MPs within that geographical area], six universities and major businesses – all working together. and `working with government` – https://greatsouthwest.co.uk/pages/working-with-government/112– is one of its key priorities.

For people living within the   https://western-gateway.co.uk/   [half of it, formerly part of the E.U. parliamentary constituency for the South West of England]   they also, presumably, have concerns about political implications. 

But is `working with government` just part of the political significance of these vehicles ?  –  there is, of course a considerable democratic deficit, as neither The Great South West + Western Gateway  has public elections.

Confusingly, although the West Midlands Combined Authority has an elected Chair [Andy Street] as also has Greater Manchester [Andy Burnham], but the gigantic `Midlands Engine` does not, nor does the Northern Powerhouse [of which Gt Manchester is part].

Also, there are environmental concerns that Powerhouse/Leps may become victims of the priority for economic growth and post Covid recovery.

I also have in mind political activists and the dilemma that they themselves may know little or nothing about LEPs & Powerhouses, nor might the folk whose votes they are canvassing.

I am aware that the China General Nuclear Power Group is a part owner of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, which is a major project within HotSW`s fiefdom[its `jewel in the crown`].”