LEP’s won’t be missed if they fade away

Firstly, I bet that most folks have never heard much, if anything, about Local Enterprise Partnerships let alone know the purpose they are meant to serve.

I recall when they were being set up as an alternative arrangement to the out of favour Regional Development Agencies (by the Coalition Government) and thought at the time that I was at best sceptical about LEP’s.

That’s not to say the Regional Development Agencies were the right model for encouraging economic development but they were regional and therefore at about the right scale to promote economic activity in my book. The old NWDA (North West Development Agency) was reasonably successful despite it being too arms length from democratic control. And thereby hangs the big issue of how to promote economic activity, particularly in areas of deprivation, whilst keeping a firm grip on the need for such activity to be in the control of local democratically elected leaders.

Here’s Jim Hancock’s view on what may well be the demise of LEP’s:-

jimhancock.co.uk/a-lep-in-the-dark/

The muddle at the heart of this matter has been the relentless pursual of elected mayors on a sub-regional/City Region basis. Readers of this blog site will know I’m no fan of elected mayors as concentrating power in the hands of one person is simply not right to me.

But having set up, or should I say imposed, elected mayors for many parts of England and then channelled economic development money through them hasn’t the government simply undermined their network of LEP’s? Well, it seems to me that’s exactly whats happened.

Devolution for England has been an utter mess for years and goes back at least to the probably well-intentioned tinkering by Blair and Prescot. The problem being that devolution has never been properly defined as you will find in most European countries and has ended up being bits and bobs handed down from Westminster with no coherent strategy.

We remain a centralised democracy with our two major parties being authoritarian of nature, trusting no one but themselves. Until we really grasp the need for regional governance and properly defined devolution we will continue to do things badly.

Will we miss the LEP’s if they wither away? No, not really.

Note: The author was the leader of Sefton Borough Council 2004 – 2011

Lancashire Enterprise Partnership – The Lancashire Strategic Transport Prospectus – Posting 2 – We are not connected to Southport!

My first posting on this prospectus of a few days ago is available via this link:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2016/02/17/lancashire-enterprise-partnership-the-lancashire-strategic-transport-prospectus-january-2016-posting-1-the-superport-implications/

Moving on page 19 of this weighty document is a map of Lancashire and some of its surrounding areas and Sefton gets a mention. Well a mention is putting it a bit strongly – the word Sefton is on the map and it is right where you would expect to see the name Southport!

Having said that even within West Lancashire Ormskirk and Burscough are not named on this map, although Skelmersdale is. Oh and the title of the map ‘ Lancashire’s arc of prosperity’.

Sadly, this map probably confirms the theory that I have had for some years in that council boundaries seem to be seen as barriers to pretty much everything. How on earth can the communities of West Lancashire develop when those in the north and east of Sefton Borough (Southport, Formby, Maghull, Lydiate etc.) are in a different plan? It makes no sense at all.

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place in 1960's. How come the reinstatement of the curves and the Southport - Wigan Manchester line does not get a mention in the LEP Transport Prospectus?

The Burscough Curves are in West Lancashire. This historic shot of them is from when they were in place in 1960’s. How come the reinstatement of the curves and the Southport – Wigan Manchester line does not get a mention in the LEP Transport Prospectus?

Strangely though on page 34 there is acknowledge of the need to connect (by rail) Skelmersdale to Liverpool so why not the need to connect Southport to Ormskirk and Preston?

More on this in posting 3 to come along soon.

Lancashire Enterprise Partnership – The Lancashire Strategic Transport Prospectus January 2016 – Posting 1 – The SuperPort implications

There’s some interesting, encouraging and indeed worrying information (or the lack of it) in this 47 page prospectus. I will cover the various aspects in 3 separate postings because they are all worth a mention in their own right.

The words Norther Powerhouse litter the document as they seem to every public sector paper from t’north these days. I assume this is to either keep or get George Osborne on side rather than the authors being enthusiastic about it?

The first thing that jumped out at me was a reference to Skelmersdale on page 12 not least because of the connection with the Liverpool SuperPort project. The relevant text says this:-

Skelmersdale in West Lancashire is closely linked to the Merseyside economy and is able to offer major sites for logistics and distribution companies keen to take advantage of the opportunities being generated by the opening of Liverpool SuperPort. This is supported by research commissioned by Peel Ports and the Liverpool City Region has highlighted the need to increase large market-attractive sites to take advantage of Atlantic Gateway opportunities.

rsz_1aintree__melling_sites

This is interesting not because it is new news but because it shows how far the tentacles of the SuperPort project spread. Readers will probably know that a huge piece of Green Belt/high grade agricultural land in Melling, next to the M57, is firmly on Peel Ports agenda for similar purposes and that Sefton Council has, for now, kicked the issue into the long grass.

rsz_photo0839

The problem will of course be how all the freight that lands in either or both of Melling and Skem actually gets to Seaforth Docks. Of course this will all have to happen in reverse too. The A5036 is the only road from the ends of the M57 and M58 motorways. Fools some years ago took up the rail connection and Highways England are now promoting a new road straight down the middle of Sefton’s Rimrose Valley Country Park as their preferred option to addresses the ‘need’ for a new freight route!

Never has so much Green Belt and green space been under more threat in Sefton, than via these proposals and of course Sefton Council’s own appalling Local Plan.