Call for parochial politics to be kept out of Lancashire growth body's new committee

Jim Carter says political representatives should not solely serve their own area's interests within the county-wide Lancashire Enterprise Partnership
Jim Carter says political representatives should not solely serve their own area's interests within the county-wide Lancashire Enterprise Partnership

A committee of all the councils in Lancashire is to be formed to scrutinise the work of the county’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

The economic growth body’s board is led by the private sector, but does already include local authority representation.

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However, the new scrutiny committee will be the first time that all 15 councils will come together to oversee the work of the organisation, which aims to drive investment in the region.

Board member and Blackpool Council leader Simon Blackburn told a meeting of the LEP that consideration should be given to the committee chair being independent of its local authority members. He added that whoever is appointed will need the “skill to be able to manage the individuals and their competing needs”.

Coun Blackburn chairs the shadow combined authority – comprising, at various times, all of Lancashire’s councils – which has spent more than three years trying to agree the terms on which to secure a devolution deal from the government.

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LEP board chair Steve Fogg said that the final shape of the scrutiny committee should be designed before reaching a firm decision on the criteria to be stipulated for the recruitment of its chair.

Meanwhile, Jim Carter, chair of the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal, warned that local authorities needed to separate their own local interests from those of the whole county when working in forums such as the LEP.

“I come a little bit wounded from an executive committee where I found that I was constantly having to remind political representatives that they weren’t there solely to represent their borough.

“They must be there to constructively criticise the LEP in terms of its operation across Lancashire and not [suggest] that it’s underperformed because [one area or another] has not got as much as it ought to do.

“The terms of reference [for the scrutiny committee] will have to be very cleverly written in that respect,” Mr Carter added.

External scrutiny of enterprise partnerships across the country was a requirement of a recent government review into the way the organisations operate. Lancashire’s LEP already had a performance committee, but that will now be replaced by the new scrutiny group.

Interim chief executive of the LEP, Andrew Pettinger, said that the scrutiny process should not become “burdensome” for the organisation’s limited number of officers – and must not duplicate existing requirements to report to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

“While I’m very much in favour of the scrutiny arrangements…we need to ensure we don’t have too many people keeping the score and not enough people doing [the work],” Mr Pettinger said.