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LEP deputy chair urges councils to express their ambitions

Tue 11 February 2014, 3:33 pm

London Enterprise Panel (LEP) deputy chair Harvey McGrath yesterday (10 February 2014) urged councils to articulate their ambitions so they can access funding.

LEP deputy chair, Harvey McGrath

Speaking at a special event organised by 3Fox International for the London Borough of Hounslow, at which the council launched its LEP partnership plan, McGrath was asked by a member of the audience how the LEP prioritises one borough over another for funding applications.

"The answer is two-fold," he said. "Firstly, there is the question of London's central boroughs versus outer boroughs. There has been a significant initiative to counterbalance the natural forces that have driven the extraordinary concentration of employment in central London. There is a prioritisation which seeks to balance that, by policy and by funding.

"The second point is that this is a relatively constrained environment in terms of funding and we're dealing with an allocation problem. I'd suggest what is being done here in terms of articulating the case for growth in Hounslow, in the ways you have sketched out this evening, is exactly what you should be doing to elevate the case you've got."

The event was organised at no cost to the council through the Great West initiative, which also involves an annual business magazine, networking events, website, quarterly newsletter and a private sector-led delegation to the global property show MIPIM in Cannes, France, each March.

Last night's event included presentations of updates to the borough's local economic assessment, early thinking on the forthcoming masterplan for the Golden Mile (the A4 or Great West Road) and a panel discussion of the growth agenda that included contributions from developer St Edward, local business BSkyB, the local chamber of commerce, the Greater London Authority, the London Enterprise Panel, and council officials. The audience comprised over 120 invited local businesses, established developers, prospective investors and council officers and members

McGrath continued: "There is a real role for Hounslow to say, for those areas of policy around the growth agenda that rely on national policy, we want to be an informed critic of what works and what doesn't and be able to critique it to those who can implement it'."

The council's chief executive Mary Harpley responded: "As a group, local businesses and the local authority are absolutley ready to engage with the LEP. Our prospectus articulates our high level of ambition and the resources we have started to muster to realise those ambitions."

McGrath concluded: "If it's not visible and it's not articulated properly, it's not going to get traction. What I've heard today is exactly what we'd encourage."

 

Funds available through the LEP to London's councils:

  • A "skills pot" of £100 million for capital spend on further education, and "other small pots around digital skills and the rather contentious new homes bonus, which is under discussion with London Councils".
  • £748 million available in match-funding from the European Union, which is "more than London had in the last round, and a lot more than any other part of the UK, and it is pretty well-aligned with the agenda of the LEP on jobs and growth".
  • Incremental receipts from development on the Royal Docks will be retained by the LEP for "redeployment London-wide", and it may be possible for the LEP to borrow further against that income.
  • The government's Growing Places Fund first round of £111 million took the form of repayable loans, so a proportion of the repayments on those loans will be available to re-use in two to five years.
  • Other smaller pots such as the City Skills Fund are also available.

LEP deputy chair Harvey McGrath said: "There is some incremental funding that we want to use to drive economic growth but just as important is enagement with business and local authorities across London to make better use of resources that we already have. We'd like to see if, collectively, we can't do things better."

Elaborating on the LEP's criteria for assessing funding applications, McGrath said: "If there is patently something that can be done anyway, through other funding sources, it won't rank very highly for the LEP. Situations where there is no other funder and there is an obstacle that the LEP can address would rank highly."

Applications should resopnate with one or other of the LEP's four key themes of employment and skills; infrastructure to unlock development; micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses (representing over 50 per cent of London's jobs); and digital, creative, science and technology.

"We expect the money to come back, so we would look for a mix of funding and an eventual 'take-out' for the LEP portion. And we would want to see a visible demonstration of private sector involvement, either in funding or in other forms of leadership."

Slides from the event are available in a 75MB pdf here

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