Local Enterprise Partnerships Need to Represent Small Businesses Better, Report Shows

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5th September 2014 11:11 - Business Support

The voice of small businesses needs to be better represented within Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), according to a newly published report.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies’ (CLES) research discovered that, despite small and medium sized businesses creating four in five (84%) jobs in the private sector between 2010 and 2013, and representing almost half (48%) of private sector turnover, larger businesses are viewed as having the most influence with LEPs.

The FSB and CLES’s report uncovered that almost two fifths (39%) of local authorities and over two thirds (67%) of FSB representatives perceive large businesses as possessing greater influence over LEPs.

The research suggests that many LEPs would be better placed to maximise local growth opportunities if they consulted more effectively with the small business community.

As it stands, more than three quarters (77%) want small businesses procurement advice as part of their business support package, compared to just one quarter (25%) of LEPs who are planning on actually implementing this kind of service.

LEPs will be responsible for £17 billion of public funds between now and 2021 and, as a result, the FSB is calling for a national framework to assess their performance. Currently, just three in 10 (31%) LEPs publish annual accounts and around two fifths (44%) produce annual reports.

The report also discovered that almost one fifth (18%) of LEPs do not think they are adequately resourced, and that almost nine in 10 (88.5%) think their primary role is to provide strategic direction - 72.5% of councils and 63.5% of FSB representatives think this is the case.

John Allan, National Chairman of the FSB, said: "LEPs are crucial to delivering local economic growth across England. While some have done a good job of reaching out to the small business community, others need to up their game. Small firms will ultimately be the ones creating most of the jobs and prosperity in the private sector, so it is absolutely essential that they are at the heart of all LEPs thinking and plans.”

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