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Economy Economy

Support local growth through combined authorities, mayoralties and local enterprise partnerships

Last updated: 07:24pm 19 September 2019

It is also why we will support local growth through combined authorities, mayoralties and local enterprise partnerships.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.24

Our verdict

Combined authorities are legal bodies made up of two or more councils working together across council boundaries. In most cases a combined authority is headed by a mayor who is elected by residents of the area, and the authority takes on certain powers which are devolved from government. Local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), introduced in 2010, are joint local authority-business bodies designed to promote local economic growth.

The manifesto contains many promises to expand and enhance the devolution of powers away from central government to English regions (see “Related Policies” below), and this is a pledge to foster local economic growth through combined authorities, mayoralties and LEPs.

As required under the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016, the government provided an annual report on devolution in March 2019, describing progress over the previous year. It mentions one new devolution deal for the North of Tyne and extensions to agreements with West Midlands and Greater Manchester. It also outlines several pieces of secondary legislation implemented to transfer functions previously exercised by government ministers.

In July 2018, following a policy review, the government published a document called Strengthened Local Enterprise Partnerships. It promised to support LEPs to develop Local Industrial Strategies, a process which has begun, with an aim to “agree all places’ Local Industrial Strategies in England by early 2020”.

It’s notable, however, that a National Audit Office (NAO) report on LEPs in May 2019 raised concerns around governance and value for money.

There is continued government support for combined authorities and ongoing development of LEPs, but until there is firm evidence that the issues with LEPs flagged by the NAO are not hindering “local growth”, this pledge remains ‘in progress’. We’ll keep tracking. Follow this policy for future developments.

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