The Federation of Small Businesses has today called for greater transparency in the way in which taxpayers’ money is spent by Local Enterprises (LEPs).
LEPs were introduced in 2012 as a way of funneling government funding to local businesses and projects in a more locally and grassroots fashion. However, the current system has been criticized by MOPs following press reports of widespread fraud and abuse. The Mail Online carried out an investigation that showed ‘276 occasions when the money – intended to kick-start economic growth – was used to make payments to board officials themselves, their firms or projects they stood to benefit from.
Today’s report from the Public Accounts Committee sets out a clear warning that the Government has continuously failed to state what the funding is intended to achieve – making it impossible to assess value for money. It says: ‘Taxpayers must be able to understand who is spending their money.’
“Insist on a register of interests”
Following the report’s publication today, Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “It’s encouraging to see the cross-party and influential PAC push for clarity around devolution objectives in England. In particular, the PAC’s call on Government to review the accountability of LEPs marks a welcome step forward.
“FSB has campaigned hard for LEPs to be more transparent in how they work. The need for greater LEP accountability has never been more pressing as the partnerships are set to receive increased funding over the coming years. The Government should now insist LEPs publish a register of business interests and fulfil their obligation to appoint a small business champion to their Board, as announced at the last Budget. While a number of LEPs up and down the country have proven effective at driving growth, more must be done to ensure partnerships are delivering for their local economies.”
Mark Dawe of the AELP was equally concerned, saying, “We expect a local commissioning model, used by LEPs or combined authorities, to set out the needs of the locality and then to follow a fair and transparent contracting process for the whole adult education budget open to all eligible providers,” he said.