The White Paper recognises the value of business-led Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and sets out a 12-point plan for reducing geographical inequalities across the country.
But chairman of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Pat Doody says the lack of devolved powers or a county deal for Lincolnshire is a missed opportunity for the area.
“We’re very pleased to see that this Government recognises the value of business-led LEPs and has embedded the role of LEPs in Government policy for the first time,” said Pat.
“The White Paper confirms that having an independent business voice in the decision-making process is vital for the economic wellbeing of local areas, skills and jobs. We are committed to working with Government to underpin that, to help build the new structures outlined in the White Paper and to focus on the priorities it sets out.”
The Greater Lincolnshire LEP was set up in 2010 and works with businesses and local authorities to develop and grow Greater Lincolnshire’s diverse economy. It is a public/private partnership led by the private sector.
It works with central Government and the private sector to invest in infrastructure, skills, innovation and productivity. More than 140 businesses work with the LEP which has an ambitious economic growth plan.
Mr Doody welcomed the missions set out in the White Paper, in particular the commitment to investing in education in Lincolnshire.
Lincolnshire will become one of 55 new Education Investment Areas aiming to improve education for disadvantaged children and young people. The county will receive targeted support including priority for new specialist sixth-form free schools, help for schools to retain the best teachers in high-priority subjects, and access to a new pilot programme to improve pupil attendance.
“The increased investment in education is to be welcomed, as is the commitment to increase public funding for research and development away from the South East by 40 per cent,” said Mr Doody.
“We will work with business and the universities to make sure we get our fair share of R&D opportunities in Greater Lincolnshire.
“And it was encouraging to see our UK Food Valley highlighted in the White Paper as a good example of private sector initiatives supported by the public sector, and the Lincolnshire Institute of Technology cited too.”
The LEP is investing in four major sectors - UK Food Valley, Defence and Security, Green Energy, and Ports and Logistics that are nationally significant, and three regional sectors health and care, manufacturing and the visitor economy.
However, the chairman of the LEP voiced a concern that future funding for Greater Lincolnshire might not match levels of EU funding seen in the past.
“We welcome the news that the process of bidding for funding will be simplified, but the criteria for qualifying to receive cash are still unclear. We remain concerned that money from the Shared Prosperity Fund will not be sufficient to match previous regional funding from the EU for Greater Lincolnshire,” he said.
Pat also expressed disappointment that Lincolnshire was not included in the first-wave list of areas to be offered devolution deals. Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Hull/East Yorkshire are all included.
“We were disappointed to see that Greater Lincolnshire was not announced in the first wave for a devolution deal, despite being surrounded by areas that were invited,” he said.
“As a LEP we will continue to put our shoulder to the wheel by lobbying for Greater Lincolnshire and by working at pace with our local authority partners to seek an early devolution deal.
“Our opportunity has been unrealised and under-invested in for decades, and levelling up will only be achieved if it is a priority shared by the whole of Government, working with local and regional leaders. We all know that we are stronger together, and the Greater Lincolnshire voice must continue to be united and strong.”