The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership – the body charged with driving economic growth across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin – today called for clarity over its funding and future from the Government. 

The LEP says the Government is still to release half of its funds for the current year – meaning it has been forced to use its own reserves to continue to operate. 

Mandy Thorn MBE, chair of the Marches LEP, said the situation was now reaching a crisis point and urged the Government to act quickly to honour its funding agreement. 

“Of the £500,000 funding the Government has agreed for this financial year we have so far received £250,000,” Mrs Thorn said.  

“As a result, the LEP is currently working ‘at risk’ – using its reserves to continue to operate whilst it awaits the remainder of the funding awarded under its contract. 

“This is clearly not sustainable in the long term and is causing a tremendous amount of anxiety and stress for our staff – hugely dedicated public servants working to ensure taxpayers get full value for their money and that our economy can recover from the dreadful impact of Covid. 

“At the same time, the board of directors of the LEP all offer their time voluntarily, which amounts to a huge personal investment from each of them in the future of the region. I simply do not know how long this goodwill is likely to be extended under the current circumstances.  

“It is absolutely vital we now receive the remaining funds awarded in our contract from the Government.”  

Mrs Thorn also called for clarity over the long-term future of LEPs in general, after publication of a Government review into the 38 partnerships across the country was delayed again. 

“The review has been under way for several months and the publication of its findings have been pushed back a number of times. This is creating still more uncertainty and it is in everyone’s interests that the Government clarify the issue.  

“The Marches LEP is absolutely ready to serve this region in any way it can – but needs to know from the Government just what form that service might take.” 

The Marches LEP was formed ten years ago to bring together the business community, public sector and academia in a unique partnership to help shape the region’s economy. 

In the last ten years it has: 

  • Directed nearly £145 million of investment into the region and attracted more than £200 million in match funding.  
  • Helped create 18,230 new jobs, supported 12,000 learners to develop their skills and invested £31 million in pioneering innovation projects.  
  • Helped 52,295 businesses through its business support service, the Marches Growth Hub, since it was launched in 2015  
  • Fostered new partnerships between the public, private and academic sectors which have delivered landmark projects such as NI.PARK in Newport, The Oswestry Innovation Park, Hereford’s Midlands Centre for Cyber Security and the Marches Centre of Excellence for Health and Social Care. 
  • Given the business community a key voice in helping develop the economy. 

Mrs Thorn added: “We have a track record of which we are extremely proud, delivering both strategic infrastructure projects and regional business support services as well as helping ensure the region has the skills, people and employers to bring prosperity to all parts of our community. 

“It is a record we are convinced is worth building on in the future.” 

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