A BID from Greater Cambridgeshire to form one of the Government’s new-style Local Enterprise Partnerships looks set to succeed, in spite of a rival bid covering the whole of East Anglia.

A BID from Greater Cambridgeshire to form one of the Government’s new-style Local Enterprise Partnerships looks set to succeed, in spite of a rival bid covering the three traditional counties of East Anglia.

A broad mix of business groups, individual companies and local authorities are backing a proposal for a partnership covering the counties of Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, together with north-east Essex.

But, according to the respected Local Government Chronicle, the East Anglia bid is already holed beneath the water-line, with a rival earlier bid from a combination of Greater Cambridgeshire and Greater Peterborough, including Rutland and small areas or north Essex, north Hertfordshire and Suffolk, already having been given the green light by the coalition Government.

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are being introduced in place of the current network of regional development agencies such as EEDA, the East of England Development Agency, which covers the three traditional counties of East Anglia plus Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

The proposed East Anglia LEP would cover the whole of Suffolk and Norfolk, the Colchester and Tendring districts of Essex and Cambridgeshire, excluding the unitary authority of Peterborough.

Supporters of the East Anglia proposal, which is among 56 submissions currently being considered by Ministers, include CBI East of England, the eastern region of the Country Land & Business Association, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, the Suffolk branch of the Institute of Directors and the East Anglia branch of the Federation of Small Businesses.

The proposal also has the backing of the Choose Suffolk and Haven Gateway economic partnerships and individual companies including Adnams, Anglian Water, Bio Group, British Energy, BT, Cambridge University Press, Huntingdon Life Sciences, Hutchison Ports (UK), Kettle Foods, Lotus, May Gurney and The Technology Partnership.

Local authorities supporting the East Anglia LEP proposal include Suffolk County Council and all seven district/borough councils within the county, plus Norwich City Council.

The Colchester and Tendring districts in Essex are included in the East Anglia LEP proposal in order to avoid the Haven ports on the rivers Stour and Orwell – principally Felixstowe and Harwich International, both owned by Hutchison – being split between two separate LEPs.

The case for the inclusion of the districts in East Anglia is further strengthened by plans for Essex and Kent to join together in forming another of the new LEPs, one which would inevitably focus heavily on the Thames corridor.

Within East Anglia, competing LEP proposals have been put forward for a county-based partnership covering Norfolk alone and for a Greater Cambridge & Greater Peterborough LEP, which also lays claims to parts of western Norfolk and Suffolk, north-west Essex and north Hertfordshire.

However, the backers of the East Anglia LEP proposal believe that the economic, geographic and cultural links between Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk amount to a uniquely compelling case for creating a regional partnership, small enough to share a genuine community of interest but large enough to have sufficient influence in the quest for funding and investment.

Andy Wood, chief executive of Adnams and chairman of Choose Suffolk, who is among those spearheading the East Anglia LEP campaign, said: “At Choose Suffolk, we believe the case for recreating East Anglia, from three counties with a comparable geography and culture and a proven economic connectedness, is a compelling one.

“With the coalition Government seeking to re-balance the economy, away from the public sector towards the private sector, we need a solution that creates the right conditions for businesses in East Anglia to flourish, succeed and pick up the slack.

“There are undoubtedly many strengths in the localism agenda but, taken too literally, it could blight business and, therefore, economic development.”

What irks Cambridgeshire is that the East Anglia bid, which is rooted firmly in Suffolk, was submitted without reference to many of the areas included.

One Huntingdonshire insider told The Hunts Post: “The trouble with the East Anglia bid is that it doesn’t have support from areas that are included. It was put in without talking to us.”

Huntingdon-based Anglian Water seems to be content with either bid. Mark Pendlington, Director of Corporate Affairs, said the East of England needed a clear strategic plan to help businesses steer a steady course through what would be a difficult economic recovery. “When you’re responsible for the investment of £2billion over five years, as Anglian Water is, an over-arching vision for growth in the region is essential. LEPs could offer this. But water doesn’t recognise arbitrary boundaries, and neither should the formation of LEPs. A cohesive, clear-minded strategy that involves businesses from the outset is fundamental to success,” he added.

“LEPs must step up to the plate. Businesses are ready to play their part, and many in this region are global powerhouses. The inward investment they generate is tremendous, so it’s essential LEPs seize the opportunity to secure the region’s status as an attractive place to do business.

“It would be a backward step if LEPs saw their boundaries in local authority terms. Global businesses, like those at home in the East, are looking for something with big aspirations.”