LEP there be light...

A HIGH-profile summit will be held in Bedfordshire Wednesday, November 17, to find out what businesses want from the newly formed South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 10th November 2010, 5:00 am

The Business and Enterprise Summit at Cranfield Innovation Centre has been planned to set in train a programme of work for the new LEP, which is meant to focus its efforts on powering economic growth in the region.

The South East Midlands LEP covers a population of more than 1.8 million people and 75,000 businesses, accounting for 3.7 per cent of the English economy.

Councils and businesses in this huge area have been brought together under the new LEP, including the Chambers of Commerce of Bedfordfordshire and Luton, North Bucks and Milton Keynes, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Institute of Directors.

Local authorities in Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Luton, Milton Keynes, Aylesbury Vale in Buckinghamshire, Northampton, Kettering and Corby, South Northamptonshire, Daventry and Cherwell in Oxfordshire have been brought under the umbrella of the new body.

While business leaders contacted by Business Monthly have their concerns that the new LEP could turn into an unwieldy talking shop, dominated by local politicians, they remain engaged in the process.

The FSB in the Luton and Dunstable area has welcomed the go-ahead for the first 24 LEPs, including South East Midlands.

But it says the ‘immediate focus’ should be to set priorities to encourage business growth and ensure that small firms really are at the heart of the local community.

FSB Luton and South Beds chairman Carole Hegley said: “The FSB has always been an advocate of local businesses working in partnership with local authorities so setting up these business-led partnerships is the logical next step.

“We are delighted that the first LEPs are beginning to take shape and it is right that those that are ready to do so are not held back.

“If these partnerships are going to be successful they must genuinely involve local businesses to get things done – not fall into the temptation of merely paying lip service to the small business sector.

“The immediate focus for each new LEP should be to set priorities to encourage business growth in the area. As the voice of small business, the FSB must be involved in all LEPs as they emerge in order to ensure small businesses are at their core, as it is small firms that are at the heart of successful local communities.”

The region’s universities, in Bedfordshire, Northampton, Milton Keynes, Buckingham and Cranfield are set to become central to a new development strategy aimed at encouraging a “diverse and competitive knowledge economy with first class infrastructure and high growth, built on local private sector strengths, exports and job creation.”

> Visit the LEP website at