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Local government needs private sector

11 September 2012

A nationwide survey of local councillors across England and Wales has highlighted the need for far greater private sector involvement to ensure the success of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), a key part of the Localism Act introduced in November 2011.

Carried out by ComRes on behalf of Willmott Dixon, the research tested local government views on the impact of localism, and the drivers and barriers to local investment and development.

While councillors are largely supportive of LEPs, over two-thirds believe they will struggle in practice to support local economic development without greater engagement from private companies.

The findings are the culmination of a year-long programme of Willmott Dixon events for local government focusing on localism, encouraging councils to discuss the challenges they face and to explore potential solutions. It also coincides with the launch of Willmott Dixon’s programme to encourage closer working between public and private sectors to create more development opportunities that will unlock local jobs.

Asked about their views on barriers to local development, 25% of councillors pointed to financial constraints, such as a lack of funding and budget cuts, with 18% citing housing.

Nearly half of councillors point to low level of skills in the local workforce as the main barrier for inward investment, with 41% also highlighting concerns over transport links – a key area under review by the government as it looks at ways to kick-start the economy. Also featuring was low levels of education, 31%, and a lack of suitable property options at 30%.

John Frankiewicz, chief executive officer at Willmott Dixon Capital Works, said: “While many councillors feel it is too early to give a definitive judgement on the impact of the Localism Act, the research shows unambiguously the areas of concern for councillors and the principal barriers to growth and investment.

“We also take from this the strong message that for Local Enterprise Partnerships to fulfil their potential in supporting local economic development, both public and private sectors need to do more to build trust and cooperation. While the private sector needs to play its part in making it easier for local government to engage with, local government too needs to look at how it can be more commercial and entrepreneurial minded to drive joint venture opportunities. It’s about building mutual recognition of the respective strengths of both public and private sectors in creating development opportunities that create growth and jobs.”

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