Local Business Partnerships will be absorbed into Hampshire County Council next year

In March this year, the government confirmed that Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) would merge with higher level councils such as Hampshire County Council.

Established in 2011, LEPs have brought together business, education and local government with investment programs, business support and economic strategies.

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Hampshire County Council. Photo: David George

In Hampshire there are two corporate partnerships – Solent LEP, which operates in and around Portsmouth, and Enterprise M3, which covers North Hampshire and part of Surrey.

A report on the county council’s progress was presented to cabinet on Tuesday.

Stuart Jarvis, director of economics, transport and the environment at Hampshire County Council, said: “The LEP review has linked the transition to devolution.

“It is important to businesses and residents that we engage effectively with LEPs to ensure the progress they have made continues.”

Until a devolution deal is agreed, LEPs will continue in their current capacity – and may well be asked to help the county council bring a private sector perspective into the equation.

However, the county agreement is expected to merge these organizations into the county council, which would then assume the functions and roles of the LEPs.

Hampshire County Council Leader Cllr Rob Humby said: ‘We already have good advice from the government, but this report gives us some direction on how we see the future – particularly when it comes to the skills and training.

“That’s something that needed a bit of clarity and I’m glad we’ve got that worked out now.”

“This report is very useful for us and for the LEPs.”

Instead of the current LEP Boards, Hampshire County Council will explore the creation of a member-driven economic forum.

It is expected that LEPs will be incorporated into the county council around January 2023. Companies that operate inside LEPs will be considered by the government on a case-by-case basis.

Future long-term funding for these organizations will be subject to future funding decisions and business planning, according to the board.

As it crosses county borders, the exact fate of the M3 business will be the subject of future discussions with Surrey County Council.

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