By Claire West

The Forum of Private Business has reacted to the approval of the first 24 Local Enterprise Partnerships, which will aid economic development and infrastructure.

The not-for-profit small business support organisation has welcomed that fact that LEPs for the main city regions have been given the go-ahead.

However, the Forum is now calling for focus to be placed on other areas of economic need and help from the Government for the proposed partnerships which need to re-bid.

Forum Chief Executive Phil Orford said: “We welcome the fact that LEPs have been agreed upon for the main city regions and economic powerhouses.
“However, we now look forward to a focus being placed on other areas of economic need with advice from the Government to those who need to re-bid.

“We also believe that the £1.4 billion growth fund should be focused on the areas of greatest need and innovative and transformational private sector bids for funding should be welcomed and encouraged.”

Mr Orford also praised the New Homes Bonus scheme, which will provide an incentive for councils to grant planning consent for new residential developments by match funding the council tax raised on new home for six years.

He said: “We also welcome the move towards simpler planning processes, which will enable innovation among renewable energy, high-tech and environmental businesses.

However, Mr Orford warned against the possible abuse of tax increment financing by local councils.

Mr Orford said: “We want to see continued fairness with local business taxation in order to foster business growth. With local authorities soon being able to borrow against future business rate increases, they may find it tempting to hike rates in order to borrow more, so this is certainly something which needs to be monitored and policed very closely.”

He added: “We understand that financial constraints mean that direct business support provided through the LEPs will be severely constrained, and we agree with the central provision.

“However, as a not-for-profit organisation based around providing specialist support for small and medium-sized businesses, we look forward to engaging with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills more on how LEPs and local support will be structured and funded.”