By Max Clarke

East Anglia and Cambridgeshire are set for increased economic growth following their first meetings with Business Minister Mark Prisk under the local enterprise partnerships scheme.

“The representatives I met have exceptional local knowledge and we discussed their ideas for the future. I have every confidence that this partnership will be a success and look forward to hearing more about its progress,” said Minister Prisk after his visit to Norfolk and Sufffolk under the New Anglia partnership.

The scheme, headed by the British Chambers of Commerce, has been introduced following a Government White Paper on growth published in October. Its intention is to stimulate regional cooperation among businesses, in order to catalyse growth.

Bringing together local business and civic leaders, local enterprise partnerships work to support their local economy. They will operate within a geography that reflects natural economic areas and will provide the vision, knowledge and strategic leadership needed to drive sustainable private sector growth and job creation in their area.

Minister Prisk also met with the newly-appointed Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough partnership in Cambridge to hear about the progress the partnership has made in appointing its board and the main objectives and priorities the partnership hopes to address.
During his roundtable with board members and local business leaders of the local enterprise partnership, they discussed how the partnership can support business growth and improve infrastructure in the region.

While business organisations are largely in support of the concept behind local enterprise partnerships, they have received criticism for their unspecified aims, and for the government’s decision to award control of the scheme to the British Chambers of Commerce alone, as Phil Orford of the Forum of Private Business explains:

Phil Orford, Chief Executive, Forum of Private Business, said:

"Many of our members still don't understand what Local Enterprise Partnerships will do to support economic and employment growth at a local level. To now discover that Government has been holding unilateral discussions with one business organisation to provide a national networking and coordination body for LEPs, without competitive tender is frankly surprising and disappointing and will raise questions about the localism agenda and public procurement policy."