Sunday, 02 December 2012 20:05

Rural business 'crucial' to LEP success

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Rural business 'crucial' to LEP success

Harnessing rural potential is crucial if a government drive is to maximise local economic growth, warns a report.

Much emphasis and focus has been channelled towards Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) since they were introduced in 2010, says the study.

"Sound engagement with both rural and urban stakeholders will ensure LEPs have a strong sense of business priorities, appreciate the needs of all the main economic sectors, and know where to focus their energy and ideas," it states.

"However, engagement is a means to an end, and LEPs' performance will rightly be assessed on what they achieve in terms of their main objectives concerning economic growth and job creation.

The study - How are rural interests being recognised within Local Enterprise Partnerships? - was carried out by the Commission for Rural Communities.

"It is important to acknowledge that, given their limited resources, many LEPs are understandably taking a targeted approach, aligned to a small set of priorities," the report says.

"However, in order to fully realise economic growth potential, it is essential that such priorities include rural consideration."

The study says rural areas are present within the boundaries of almost every Local Enterprise Partnership.

Even LEPs which would normally be considered urban often contain countryside which abuts or even impinges on their urban areas, it points out.

"Rural communities, and the businesses located within them, have the potential to contribute considerably towards the primary objectives of LEPs.

"In order to realise this potential, it is crucial that rural interests are recognised by LEPs as part of their work."

To ensure and maintain a rural input into policy and decision making, a rural champion should be present on each LEP board, says the study.

LEPs should consider allocating places on their boards for non-business or local authority representatives, including those from the town and parish council sector.

"Ideally, rural needs should be considered as an integral part of all discussions and decision-making, not separately or discretely," the report recommends.

"Where LEPs have established specific rural sub-groups, their membership should be diverse, and should include economic, social and environmental interests."

Furthermore, rural business representation should not be solely composed of the land-based sector, such as farming or forestry interests, the report adds..
"LEPs should engage a broad representation of stakeholders during the policy and decision making process – including those from a rural context.

"Outputs from consultation with rural stakeholders, as well as informing the work of rural-focussed sub-groups, should also be formally fed into the work of wider sub-groups, and main LEP boards.

The full document can be downloaded here.

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