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‘Jobs and investment will suffer if district expertise is side-lined’ – DCN responds to LEPs’ axing

Published: 4 August 2023

The District Councils’ Network has responded to the Government’s publication today of proposals to replace Local Enterprise Partnerships.

A guidance document, published by the Department for Business & Trade and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, states that in areas without devolution deals, LEP powers will be integrated into county councils.

“Where not already delivered by a combined authority, or in areas where a devolution deal is not yet agreed, the Government expects these functions to be exercised by upper tier local authorities, working in collaboration with other upper tier local authorities over functional economic areas as appropriate,” levelling up minister Dehenna Davison and enterprise minister Kevin Hollinrake wrote in a letter to council chiefs and leaders.

No reference is made in the letter or guidance for the need for county or unitary councils to cooperate with district councils – the most localised principal authorities. District councils hold powers over economic development, planning, housing, regeneration and the environment.

In response, Cllr Barry Wood, DCN’s regeneration and growth spokesman, said:

“It beggars belief if the Government’s intention is to cut out district councils from the vital drive to support business and create jobs.

“As the most localised principal authorities, districts know their places in more detail than any other tier of government – our officers and members have a uniquely localised understanding of the needs of local businesses and the needs of our communities. We have a unique expertise and knowledge of our local economies which needs to be harnessed if the jobs demanded by our residents are to be created.

“District councils are responsible for the local planning system, regeneration, economic regeneration and the local environment – all of which are essential tools for building sustainable and prosperous local economies. The danger is that by side-lining us, the drive to create new opportunities will be far weaker than it could be.

“District councils stand by to work with other tiers of government – county councils and national government in particular – to grow our local economies. We urge the government to rethink these plans and to ensure our expertise is fully utilised, alongside that of our other local partners, to bring about the jobs and investment our places need.”

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