Where is the Voluntary Sector Voice in the discussion about LEPs?

The West Midlands Sustainability Forum, which represent the ‘green’ third sector organisations recently made a plea for more in

Read more in this letter sent by West Midlands Sustainability Forum’s Chair Chris Crean to Alun Thorne, Editor of the Birmingham Post.

 

‘The future of regional and local governance has caught the eye since the General Election of May 6th. “Regions, what regions?” you may ask and indeed much of the regional architecture has been scrapped, although some of this demolition could end up in the High Court. We are due primary legislation later in the year which could well see the regional tier disappear under the knife of Eric Pickles. However until then we are in a period of voids and vacuums with no solid basis on which to take forward land use planning decisions.  Indeed according to research published by Tetlow King Planning on behalf of the National Housing Federation in July, plans for 85,000 homes in England have been dropped since their abolition.

But it is the demise of the Regional Development Agencies which seems to have journalists, business leaders and politicians jumping. The new replacement Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP’s) have seen deals being scrambled together behind closed doors and each week there is a contradiction to last week’s brave new plan. Jerry Blackett from the Bham Chamber seems to be most agile on this subject while various local authorities are courting and being rejected by each other.

However two aspects seem to have been missing from all of the debates thus far: governance and the role of the Third or Civil aka the voluntary and community sector. We all have our opinions of the accountability and effectiveness of the West Midlands Regional Assembly – however, what can be said is that it was open, transparent and accountable. So much so that Mr Pickles wants rid and to replace it with business led and dominated partnerships. They will have access to a centrally controlled Regional Growth Fund and, with access to land banks, could push forward Accelerated Growth Zones.

So as we move forwards to the 6th September deadline for the LEP submissions can we have some indication of just where the voluntary and community sector will sit in relation to them and how accountable they will be to local people moving forwards?  The voluntary and community sector has, is and will be a valuable contributor to the quality of life within our region. To ignore them from the LEPs could be missing out on valuable intelligence and expertise from the rich diversity that exists across the West Midlands.’