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Posted on:
22nd January, 2018

Four “critical” features of a successful Local Industrial Strategy

The government’s decision that local enterprise partnerships should lead the development of local industrial strategies (or support metro mayors to do so) was an important sign of confidence in them.

Four “critical” features of a successful Local Industrial Strategy

By Phil Swann, Executive Chair of Shared Intelligence

Predictably the announcement got a mixed response in local government with some people claiming that local councils had been snubbed, reflecting lingering concerns about the role of LEPs and their contribution to economic growth.

At Shared Intelligence we are clear from our work with LEPs around the country that the most effective LEPs are those which have a close relationship with their local councils. LEPs and local councils have all welcomed the emphasis in the Industrial Strategy on place, but exploiting the opportunity it presents will also hinge on the quality of engagement between them. In areas where the relationship between the LEP and local councils is poor there is a responsibility on both parties to fix it.

In our recent work for the LEP Network we identified four features of LEPs which are critically important to the development of local industrial strategies and which should be welcomed by their local authority partners.

First, the industrial strategy highlights the importance of new ways of working between local leaders in the public and private sectors, universities, colleges and other local institutions. LEP boards bring together senior representatives of these organisations and have a remit to convene all the local institutions with a contribution to make to enabling inclusive economic growth. Paying attention to how LEP boards work, particularly between formal board meetings, is important.

Second, LEPs have access to a variety of sources of business intelligence, through their board members and contacts with local businesses. Local industrial strategies must be based on as good an understanding as possible of which businesses have the ambition and capacity to grow, which sectors they are in and where they are located. It is essential to understand what barriers to growth those businesses face and how interventions at a local level can help overcome those barriers.

Third, the active participation on LEP boards of senior people from further and higher education is particularly important. It has contributed to the development of a stronger place focus for those institutions and has the potential to create the conditions for genuine employer leadership of skills provision tailored to meet the needs of local businesses.

Finally LEPs need to be clear about what local authority members can bring to the board. Senior councillors can bring political nous to complement the business and commercial acumen of their board colleagues. Their local democratic accountability can underpin the board’s critically important convening and integrating role. Councils’ planning, infrastructure, social care, education and housing responsibilities combined with their community leadership role complement LEPs’ expertise around productivity and competitiveness.

The current government is clearly committed to LEPs and Ministers are depending on them to deliver local industrial strategies. If LEPs are to meet Ministers’ expectations they must create the conditions in which business and political leaders can work in tandem. 

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