A leading Huntingdonshire businessman has called for urgent reform to ensure that a government-backed enterprise partnership avoids becoming an ‘old boys’ club’.
Malcolm Lyons, chairman of the Huntingdonshire branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said that his members wanted to see greater accountability and transparency from the Greater Cambridge and Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (GCGP).
The GCGP, which is based at Alconbury Weald, was set up in 2011 following a successful bid from 13 local authorities in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and acts as a focal point for businesses in the county, responding to their needs and helping drive growth through investment.
The GCGP board is made up of local business leaders who have put together a strategic plan for the county and secured more than £146million from the government to invest in infrastructure and skills projects.
Despite it success, however, Mr Lyons said it was crucial that the GCGP needed to be “beyond reproach” when it came to transparency and representativeness.
He said: “The GCGP does some great work across the region and it’s crucial that it is equipped to maintain vital business support services beyond Brexit. That being said, reform is urgently needed.
“All LEPs are obliged to have a small business champion in place and that obligation needs to be met. Equally, the government should produce comprehensive business data, including unregistered businesses, at a LEP level so partnerships can tailor local growth strategies effectively.
“GCGP needs to be beyond reproach in terms of its governance, overall transparency and representativeness. It should be a channel for economic growth and targeted business support, not old boys’ clubs.”
The FSB represents small and medium enterprises across Cambridgeshire and acts to lobby government on behalf of members, as well as offering advice and support.
Mark Reeve, the chairman of Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP, said:
“The LEP is proud to have not just one, but three SME representatives on our board that local businesses can contact at any time to share their views and ask questions of. “We have recently carried out a complete review of our processes and systems to ensure we are fully compliant with the government’s assurance framework, which sets out the accountability and transparency requirements for all LEPs.
“Both the board, and the LEP executive team, are committed to helping businesses overcome the key barriers to growth in an open, proactive and meaningful way, from offering free business support advice and funding via Signpost 2 Grow through to helping connect the workforce of the future with local businesses.”