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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Building economic resilience? An analysis of local economic partnerships & plans

In this report we assess the extent to which local enterprise partnerships are addressing and planning for the long-term economic and social challenges that their areas face.

In the wake of the recession, the tools of national and local government have been re-geared for growth. However, the basis of the burgeoning recovery is still in question: long-term youth unemployment is persistently high; business investment and the balance of trade remain significant concerns, as does household debt; and there remain major disparities in the relative performance of different cities and regions – in some areas, the fragility of earlier growth has been exposed as investment has drained away.

The severity of the recession has also caused a profound crisis in thinking about the economy and the nature of economic growth. Increasing attention is being paid to ideas of sustainability and economic 'resilience', which raises the concern that, in recovering from the recession, policymakers may not do enough to learn the lessons of the past – and, worse still, may inadvertently sow the seeds of a future economic crisis. It is therefore important to question the extent to which resilience is embedded in the government's strategy for economic growth. This paper takes up that task by focussing on a key aspect of the government's local growth strategy: local enterprise partnerships. 

Local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), set up by government to drive the growth agenda at the local level, have never been directed to address matters of wider economic resilience. However, they have the freedom to develop growth plans that address wider ideas of local economic resilience as well as narrow concepts of productivity growth.

This report assesses the strategies that LEPs were tasked with drawing up in order to win a share of the Local Growth Fund, appraising them against a newly-developed 'LEP resilience framework' which assesses key areas of policy, including innovation and entrepreneurship, corporate social responsibility, infrastructure investment, accountability and environmental sustainability.