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Politicians take control of Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, in the name of accountability

Politicians take control of Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, in the name of accountability

🕔10.Sep 2013

The Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership will come under direct political control for the first time with the formation of a supervisory board consisting of council leaders.

One of the Government’s aims in creating LEPs to replace the regional development agencies was to ensure that business representatives were in the majority when it came to taking decisions about economic development and job creation.

While business members will still have a majority at LEP board meetings, their activities and spending decisions will be overseen and controlled by the supervisory body.

The move reflects concern at Government level that LEPs must be seen to be publicly accountable if they are successful in acquiring large budgets and new decision making powers.

Details of how the system will work are contained in a Birmingham city council cabinet report.

The leaders of Birmingham, Bromsgrove, Cannock Chase, East Staffordshire, Lichfield, Redditch, Solihull, Tamworth and Wyre Forest will be on the supervisory board along with GBSLEP chairman Andy Street. Mr Street, however, will not get a vote.

It’s expected that Sir Albert Bore, the leader of Birmingham council, will chair the board.

One of the  key objectives, according to the cabinet report is to “provide effective decision-making and clear political accountability for the management of the Local Growth Fund and other significant funding streams that cover the full GBSLEP geography as agreed by the LEP Board”.

The report continues: “The board will have responsibility for determining how new, significant, funding streams are allocated within the LEP area.

“This will ensure the necessary democratic accountability for decision-making.”

Decision-making at the board will be on a one person one vote basis, effectively giving substantial powers to the small authorities of Lichfield, Cannock Chase and Wyre Forest at the expense of Birmingham and Solihull.

Political proportionality rules will not apply to the supervisory board. This means that the board’s membership will not have to reflect the overall political make-up of the nine GBSLEP councils.

A scrutiny committee to oversee the board will be set up with one member from each of the GBSLEP councils.

Formation of the supervisory board is designed to address concerns about accountability when spending the Government’s Local Growth Fund of £2 billion a year. GBSLEP is bidding for a substantial sum from the fund in an effort to stimulate job creation in the M42 Corridor.

The Birmingham cabinet report stresses that the Government expects LEPs to strengthen their governance arrangements and demonstrate how they are delivering collective decisions from all local authority leaders, including district councils in the LEP.

The report continues: “GBSLEP could maintain its current governance structure which has functioned effectively to date. However, it is clear from Government guidance that this would mean that the LEP would be unsuccessful in any bid to the Local Growth Fund and would not be able to negotiate a Growth Deal and its governance arrangements would not be deemed to be robust enough to take decisions over significant levels of funding.”

 

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