Eric Pickles and Vince Cable have written to a range of people in London encouraging them to bring forward proposals for London Local Economic Partnerships.
The Communities Secretary and the Business Secretary have jointly signed the letter, which is addressed to “The Mayor of London, London Borough Leaders, London Business Leaders”, and outlines London’s timetable for the LEP application process, which sets a deadline of November 5 for applications to be in.
The letter is clear that any sub-regional LEP arrangements, such as are reportedly being sought by East, South and North London, as well as West London, must generate significant extra value, over and above that generated by existing structures, and that sub-regional LEPs should deliver better private sector growth than any London wide system.
In particular, the letter says that “London approximates well to the definition of a functional urban area”, one of the key concepts underlying the LEP policy. West London will have to show it is a distinct “functional urban area”, and one with sufficiently different needs to central, south, north and east London.
This definition, if read literally, could make it hard for any provincial UK city to satisfy this test, given that West London’s economy is larger than all but Birmingham’s. If London is the scale that a LEP should achieve, we might see seven or eight in the whole of the UK.
The letter is also clear that any LEP must be a balanced public/private partnership, and that a “prominent business leader” should chair any LEP Board. And here we may have a problem, as one commentator has put it, “why would any business leader put themselves forward to head up a thing with no money and no powers?”.
LEPs, and in particular what a West London one could deliver, are a key part of the agenda at the Place West London Conference on October 14. Book you place now to join the debate!