Broadland District Council demands more local business benefits from New Anglia LEP
Broadland's councillors have criticised the region's Local Enterprise Partnership for a 'lack of engagement' – and demanded to see more specific local benefits for the district's businesses.
The government-backed New Anglia LEP, formed to champion business growth in Norfolk and Suffolk, was invited to give a progress presentation to Broadland District Council's cabinet this morning (Tuesday).
Stuart Clancy, portfolio holder for economic development, said he had received no direct communications from the LEP and that the district's businesses had seen no specific returns for the council's �7,000 in annual fees paid to the partnership.
He added that he was concerned that the LEP could be seen as simply another 'bureaucratic qango'.
Jason Middleton, funding and projects manager at New Anglia, defended the partnership's achievements, including the creation of an online business portal, securing funding for infrastructure projects and developing the new Enterprise Zone in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
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He said the group was working hard to ensure the benefits of these projects were spread as widely as possible, and said they would work to improve communications with Broadland.
Mr Clancy said: 'I want to be clear that I agree with the principle of the LEP, but there have been considerable doubts raised about its performance.
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'I fear that it will simply adopt a model similar to EEDA (the now-defunct East of England Development Agency). That is not what the business community wants. They want an organisation that delivers for business.
'I personally have not received any reports from the LEP whatsoever regarding their activities. I think one of their biggest failings is poor communication. The majority of members of the Broadland Business Forum have never heard of them.
'The LEP has done some very good work, but it has not specifically benefited Broadland. They need to sharpen up their act considerably, because the business community needs it, and wants it.'
The LEP's report outlines a range of mechanisms used to engage with its partners in both the public and private sector, including newsletters, conferences and more than 100 presentations made to local authorities, business groups and other stakeholders.
Mr Middleton pointed out that monthly meetings with economic development officers had not been well attended by Broadland, but he said the LEP would be happy to make regular future reports direct to Broadland's cabinet.
He said: 'One of the things we have constantly said since the board was formed last April is that we will ensure our partners are kept informed, and that has not changed.
'There is a whole range of activities we are involved with and we are working to make sure the benefits are being distributed as widely and as fairly as possible.
'Funding is very limited and a lot of our large-scale activities have been driven by the government in terms of where that money can be spent. But we are campaigning to make sure we have as much flexibility as possible to bring these benefits where they are required, including in Broadland.'
After the meeting, LEP board member John Fuller, also the leader of South Norfolk Council, said: 'We are all very surprised with Broadland District Council's attitude. The facts don't really bear out their complaint. It doesn't matter how we try and engage, they don't seem to want to listen.
'I think it is a shame that while there is going to be tens of millions of pounds going into the local economy through the LEP, Broadland have chosen this funny way of making friends and influencing people.'