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Economy Economy

Give legal backing to local enterprise partnerships

Last updated: 01:19pm 1 November 2019

We will give local enterprise partnerships greater weight by backing them in law.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.25

Our verdict

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), introduced in 2010, are joint local authority-business bodies designed to promote local economic growth. There are 38 LEPs across England. As non-statutory bodies (not created by Parliament), the legal status of LEPs has been varied and somewhat unclear. This policy promises to back LEPs in law.

We might expect “backing them in law” to mean government would bring forward legislation regarding LEPs. In fact, a different approach was taken. Rather than changing the law, government has elected to change LEPs so they are backed by existing law.

In July 2018 the government published the policy document Strengthened Local Enterprise Partnerships which laid out various government commitments alongside changes LEPs would be required to implement. It included this statement:

“Government will support all Local Enterprise Partnerships to have a legal personality. Where they are not already incorporated as companies, Local Enterprise Partnerships that are not in mayoral combined authorities or combined authorities should take steps to become companies.”

It also stipulated that the new legal structure should be in place by April 2019. This “legal personality” will allow LEPs to “enter into legal commitments to take on further responsibilities in the future”.

A National Audit Office update in May 2019 informed us that:

“…as of April 2019 all LEPs had adopted a legal personality apart from two LEPs that had requested an extension to the deadline.”

By insisting LEPs take on a legal status or “personality”, and supporting them to do so, the government has ensured they have greater backing under existing (company) law. On that basis, we consider this policy to be ‘done’.

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