Liberal Democrat Local Government spokesperson Dorothy Thornhill is calling on the government to clarify the objectives for the £12bn funding of local Growth Deals following criticism from the National Audit Office (NAO).
The report on Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) identifies uncertainty over the tangible economic contribution of Growth Deals that are funded by central government via LEPs. By overseeing these deals, the Department for Communities and Government (DCLG) are risking the principle of value for money in the face of increasingly complex local landscapes.
The NAO suggested that the LEPs themselves have serious reservations about their capacity to deliver on these deals and stated:
"Only 5% of LEPs considered that the resources available to them were sufficient to meet the expectations placed on them by government. In addition, 69% of LEPs reported that they did not have sufficient staff and 28% did not think that their staff were sufficiently skilled".
The projects that are being pursued provide no guarantees of long term economic benefit because of the way in which LEPs are pressured into spending their allocated Local Growth Fund within the year, meaning that due care is not always taken.
DCLG have also failed to test their own implementation for assurance frameworks that` were established in order to promote standards of governance and transparency in LEPs; the NAO found considerable disparity in the way in which LEPs had complied with these requirements and the varied nature of transparency in relation to declarations of their financial information.