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Chancellor's LEP announcement met with dismay by GFirst

The Business Magazine article image for: Chancellor's LEP announcement met with dismay by GFirst
20 March 2023

Staff at local enterprise partnership GFirst have reacted with dismay to the news that LEPs are to be scrapped.

The announcement was made by Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt as part of his Spring Budget last week.

He told Parliament: "The government is committed to empowering democratically elected local leaders at every opportunity.

"To this end, the government intends for the functions of Local Enterprise Partnerships to be delivered by local government in the future.

"Therefore, the government is minded to withdraw central government support for LEPs from April 2024."

The Department for Levelling up, Housing & Communities and the Department for Business and Trade would consult on the proposals, before confirming a decision, he said.

The government is expected to publish an updated policy position to confirm next steps by the summer.

GFirst LEP Chair and Partner at Hazlewoods LLP, Ruth Dooley said, “Ironically, this announcement came on the exact same day that all seven local authorities in Gloucestershire unanimously agreed to continue to support the excellent work of GFirst LEP and to continue match funding it for a further 12-month period.

"To make it clear, in Gloucestershire, we have both the Leaders of Gloucestershire County Council and Gloucester City Council sitting on the GFirst LEP Board and the Leader of Cheltenham Borough Council is our ‘Official Observer’ for the board.

"Equally as important, are all our additional Board Members sat around the table representing the private sector, the voluntary sector and academia – Hazlewoods, Renishaw, Campden BRI, Google, The University of Gloucestershire, and Business West to name just a few.

"GFirst LEP has prided itself on being politically independent and impartial, listening to the business voice of Gloucestershire and yet working collaboratively with local authorities from all political persuasions.

"This news is even more disappointing following five years of reviews and multiple letters from Ministers expressing their appreciation for our work."

She continued: "We are immensely proud of what GFirst LEP has achieved in the county, successfully bidding for over £113 million of funding for new infrastructure – creating one of the best Growth Hub networks in the country, the Transport Hub in Gloucester, the AccXel Centre in Cinderford, investments at; Gloucester Airport, Hartpury University and Hartpury College, The Royal Agricultural University, the Elmbridge Court roundabout, Five Valleys Shopping Centre in Stroud and so many more right across the county.

"As the independent business voice for Gloucestershire, we have no other agenda besides helping our county be the very best place to live and work.

"This includes generating inward investment opportunities, flying the flag for Gloucestershire on the international stage, providing business support through The Growth Hub, supporting education and skills development, and championing our local food and drink producers through Made in Gloucestershire.

"Our work will now focus on ensuring a smooth transition over to Gloucestershire County Council and we hope that none of the key assets of GFirst LEP, including the LEP Board, the Business Groups and the incredibly loyal and hard-working staff, will be lost and that an appropriate legacy remains.”

LEPs were establish by the coalition government in 2011 as private sector led partnerships between businesses and local public sector bodies. There are 38 LEPs in England.


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Peter Davison is deputy editor of The Business Magazine. He has spent his life in journalism – doing work experience in newsrooms in and around Bristol while still at school, and landing his first job on a local newspaper aged 19. By 28 he was the youngest newspaper editor in the country.

An early advocate of online news, he spent the first years of the 2000s telling his bosses that the internet posed both the biggest opportunity and greatest threat to the newspaper industry and the art of journalism. He was right on both counts.

Since 2006 he has enjoyed a career as a freelance journalist. He lives in rural Wiltshire with one wife, two children, and three cats.

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