Thursday, 18 November 2010 09:24

Watchdog: LEPS must 'listen to rural'

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Watchdog: LEPS must 'listen to rural'

LOCAL Enterprise Partnerships must listen to rural concerns, a government watchdog has warned.

Ministers hope the partnerships (LEPs) will spur local economic growth as they replace regional development agencies across England.

The Commisson for Rural Communities said it was imperative that LEPs planned and delivered for local rural economies.

The countryside formed around 20% of England's economy, and rural businesses employ around 4.5m workers, it said.

To help new and would-be LEPs harness rural growth and potential, the commission has reviewed how previous economic partnerships dealt with rural economies.

It published a report, Recognising rural interests within Local Enterprise Partnerships, on Thursday (18 November).

The document suggests steps that local partnerships and central government can take to ensure rural areas contribute to and benefit from the drive to more local economic development.

The CRC wants to see the LEPs:

  • ensure that their local rural interests are heard and represented;
  • analyse data at the lowest (spatial) level to understand the characteristics of rural economies;
  • understand the challenges of rural deprivation and the difficulties facing rural communities and small towns;
  • ensure that rural interests are reflected in all strategies, policies and programmes.

Commission executive director Crispin Moor said LEPs should show how their work resulted in equitable and effective support for rural communities and businesses.

They could do this by using their annual reportds to highlight the rural impact of LEP priorities, programmes and investments, he suggested.

"We are also calling on Defra to champion the needs of rural LEPs and rural areas within LEPs and to monitor allocation of finance to ensure fair funding outcomes.

"We are asking [the departments of] Communities and Local Government and Business, Innovation and Skills to ensure the government's new regional growth fund works to support rural economic growth."

This could include supporting smaller-scale, and ongoing social, environmental and economic investments that achieved sustainable economic growth and wellbeing, and that were more typical of rural economies.

"We also commend our report to local authorities and their partners and to all bodies concerned with strong rural economic development," Mr Moor said.

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