Economic group calls for clarity over future role

The chairman of a regional economic body has cautiously welcomed Rishi Sunak’s budget, but is “disappointed” at the lack of clarity over the future of organisations like hers.

Marches LEP chair Mandy Thorn MBE
Marches LEP chair Mandy Thorn MBE

The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership covers Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin, distributing grants and helping businesses set up and grow.

A government-commissioned a review of England’s 38 LEPs, looking at their role, has yet to report.

Marches LEP chairman Mandy Thorn MBE said the “unreasonable” lack of clarity over their future is “putting the partnerships and the jobs of their dedicated teams at risk”.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Sunak unveiled his third budget yesterday.

Reacting to it, Ms Thorn said: “We certainly welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of additional help for some of the sectors hardest hit by Covid, such as the 50 per cent business rates discount for the retail, leisure and hospitality sector and the extra investment in the British Business Bank to help businesses with access to finance.

“We also support announcements around improved funding for regional transport, extra money to improve skills and training provision and help to develop housing on more brownfield sites – all of which will play a key part in developing our own regional economy.

“We are pleased that the Chancellor has followed up on earlier promises to review the outdated system of business rates but disappointed that he failed to clarify the role of LEPs moving forward putting the partnerships and the jobs of their dedicated teams at risk.

“All the board members at the Marches LEP give their time voluntarily to try to help the economy of the region and it is simply unreasonable to expect this to continue amid this level of uncertainty.

“The Marches LEP stands ready to play its part in the economic recovery from Covid, but we must have clarity over what part that is.

“We remain committed to ensuring that the needs of the business community are reflected in the economic development of our wonderful region – and that the partnership working which has delivered so much in the last decade can continue for many years to come.”

The review was commissioned by the government earlier this year and is being conducted by the Cities and Local Growth Unit.

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