Key findings and recommendations
This report is based on a survey of England’s 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). We carried out the survey to explore the extent to which charities are involved in determining local economic, skills, job creation and other priorities within the local area.
LEPs should consider the voluntary sector as a key strategic and delivery partner. However, the responses to the survey highlighted that:
- approximately two-thirds of LEPs’ engagement with the voluntary sector is either inadequate or requires improvement
- many voluntary sector representatives reported that LEPs are remote and hard to engage with in any meaningful way
- voluntary sector membership on LEPs main boards does not automatically translate to meaningful engagement of the voluntary sector. On the other hand, absence of sector representation does not always prevent good engagement.
- while there are some pockets of good practice, many LEPs have no coherent and consistent approach, or obvious commitment to the development of truly inclusive growth
- many LEPs appear to be preoccupied with private sector growth, at the exclusion of the interrelated social issues that can impede inclusive growth. As a result, improving social inclusion and helping disadvantaged communities appears marginal to many LEP's priorities
- the sector can be sidelined in LEP decision-making processes because it is not viewed as a credible or important business partner. There is often a lack of appreciation of the sector’s role in the local community, and of recognition of the part it plays in local economies, including as an employer, taxpayer, and mobiliser of volunteers
- where good engagement does exist, it can often depend on personalities and good relationships.
Recommendations for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG)
- Conduct a review of LEP boards in each area to determine the extent to which membership reflects the local areas they are intended to represent.
- Where LEPs have been found underperforming, seek to improve their governance culture by providing good practice guidance. This should include guidance on how to ensure meaningful engagement and should be produced in partnership with key stakeholders including the voluntary sector.
- Require underperforming LEPs that have not responded to good practice guidance to design and implement a formal action plan to address any concerns.
- Ensure that if LEPs are chosen to administer the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), they should have a dedicated UKSPF board made up of statutory partners, local voluntary sector infrastructure organisations, skills and training and employment support providers, alongside other partners with specific expertise and knowledge of local and regional needs.
- Centrally publish and regularly update the membership details of all UKSPF boards – whether independent or part of LEPs’ governance structures – on a dedicated GOV.UK webpage. A central website would ensure information is more easily accessible, as well as demonstrating MHCLG oversight.
Recommendations for LEPs and the LEP Network
LEPs that demonstrate good practice in terms of engagement with the voluntary sector should be encouraged to share their experiences of how this has positively influenced decision making and growth strategies.
The LEP Network should publish ‘myth-busting’ guidance, debunking misconceptions about the sector. The guidance should include the sector’s contribution to local economies, its role in business and leadership expertise, and the important part it plays as an employer and mobiliser of volunteers.
LEP board vacancies should be advertised as widely as possible to ensure the best field of candidates possible. In terms of board appointments, LEPs should publish and regularly update all details of their governance structure, including members of the main board and all sub-boards, in a standardised format.
Recommendations for the voluntary sector
While responsibility for engaging with the most appropriate local stakeholders’ principally rests with LEPs themselves, local voluntary sector organisations – including the local council for voluntary service (CVS) – should also take steps to build a closer working relationship with their local LEP.
The LEP Network champions the impact and value of LEPs in building local economic growth and prosperity across the country. It acts as the lead commentator and negotiator for LEPs at a national level with government, advisers, businesses, academia, think tanks and other target audiences. It also acts as a central source of information and data on LEPs at a national level https://www.lepnetwork.net/