By Marcus Leach

Monday marked the first meeting between Prime Minister Mr David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and local enterprise partnerships from across the country.

The Chairs from the 31 approved partnerships were invited to meet with ministers, including Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, to discuss the vital role that local enterprise partnerships will play in driving forward growth in their communities, and rebalancing the economy across the country.

The Deputy Prime Minister also announced that the successful bids to the Regional Growth Fund would be announced shortly and that the second round of the fund would open on April 12. He also announced that due to the number of high quality bids received the funding allocated to the first round may increase.

"Local enterprise partnerships are fundamental to the growth agenda. We believe that local people and local business leaders know best what works in their area,” Mr Cameron said.

“That’s why we are shifting power from Whitehall and quangos to the local communities and local businesses who really understand the barriers to growth in their areas. An approach where partnerships are formed over parts of the country people actually identify with and that make sense to business and reflect markets, rather than the old arbitrary regional boundaries."

Deputy Prime Minister Mr Clegg went on to stress the importance of rebalancing the countries economy through close partnerships with local enterprises.

“Local Enterprise Partnerships are emblematic of the real power shift away from central Government towards local communities and the local businesses which will be at the heart of growth in their areas,” said Mr Clegg.

“It is vital that we rebalance our economy to make it more resilient and more sustainable. The new economy we need to build will be more evenly spread, across all of our regions and between the different sectors of our economy, producing more of the goods and services required by the Green Economy of the future

“That is why today’s summit is so important. Rebalancing the economy will only be possible with the help of vibrant partnerships that bring together the best expertise and enthusiasm of the private sector and local government.”
Government Ministers also confirmed their support for the formation of an Association of Local Enterprise Partnerships that will help them support shared learning, information exchange and better networking.

“Local enterprise partnerships now cover 90 per cent of the country and today’s summit shows how important the voice of local councils, local business and civic leaders, will be as they take the reins of their local economies and move forward with their own plans to rebalance the national economy, promote local jobs and local prosperity,” Eric Pickles said.

“We think an Association of Local Enterprise Partnerships is a great idea so we’re going to help get it up and running as soon as possible so the network can deliver their growth ambitions"

A series of breakout sessions were held with the partnerships to hear first-hand how they plan to drive enterprise in their area.

In January the Prime Minister also announced a local enterprise partnership capacity fund of £4 million, the first round of which, with an allocation of £1 million, opened for bids from the partnerships last month. This money will help the partnerships understand the issues their local businesses face.

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