George Osborne used his Emergency Budget to confirm the worst-kept secret of the last few months: that the new government will scrap regional development agencies (RDAs).
Both Advantage West Midlands and Emda will disappear after the announcement of a White Paper later this summer which will outline details of the proposals. The government said this will be followed by a Public Bodies Bill which, if passed, will mean the end of RDAs. In their place, said Osborne, will come local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) led by elected local authority leaders.
The government said LEPs will be based around England's major cities and natural economic areas to enable improved public and private investment in housing, transport, skills, regeneration and other areas of economic development.
Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said he hoped to work closely with its local LEP, adding: "In our view, this body should focus on a small number of economic priorities and deliver via the creation of strong partnerships with good lines of communication into local authorities and business.”
George Cowcher, chief executive of the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce, said the decision could cause confusion. He added: "The Chamber is already aware of one local authority which says it wants business involvement but not business leadership, which is worrying because then it simply comes down to grabbing a budget. There will be little point in having LEPs as they have got no money and no power. Businesses should be able to lead the LEPs, not just be asked to support them."