Business leaders unite after Chamber’s broadside at Lancashire Enterprise Partnership

By John Henderson

Business leaders and representatives have rallied behind the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) after the leadership of one of the county’s three chambers of commerce publicly blasted the organisation for what it says is a lack of consultation with business.

"Lobbying, it strikes us, is more likely to draw results than lobbing bricks." Read the publisher's comments >>

The very public outburst, which appeared in some media, has left leading business voices baffled and concerned about the message it sends to the outside world and those controlling regional finances, particularly in the context of a difficult and fractious birth for the LEP when rival approaches, which foresaw up to three LEPs for the county, threatened its formation.

“The criticism that has been levelled by Downtown and other business organisations directly to the LEP and its representatives has been that it has perhaps not been as good at communicating that message to the business community.

"The timing of what NWLCC has done is somewhat bizarre." - Frank McKenna

Frank McKenna continued: “Criticism has been accepted, taken on board and acted upon so, again, the timing of what NWLCC has done is somewhat bizarre. I’d say it has been ill-conceived and not really thought through.”

“The reason Manchester is able to do that is they work together and they have their fall outs, of which there are many, very privately.

At the heart of NWLCC’s criticism were questions it put to its members as part of its Quarterly Economic Survey. It asked if they had been consulted on the design and implementation of the LEP’s ‘Strategic Economic Plan’ and reported that only two per cent responded positively.

President Norman Tenray used those statistics to declare: “It is about time Lancashire’s LEP started talking to the businesses it is meant to be supporting and give them a real say on where money is spent in the county.”

"It is about time Lancashire’s LEP started talking to the businesses it is meant to be supporting." - Norman Tenray

The quarterly survey was carried out jointly between the county’s three chambers of commerce. However, the East Lancashire and Lancaster groups declined to carry the questions about the LEP – highlighting some major differences in approach across the county.

So what’s Mike Damms’ take on the situation? “The LEP is work in progress,” he says.

He said the county’s chambers “collaborate well when a single voice is needed; but the value of having several of the UK’s strongest chambers is that they can also be more targeted when local variations are appropriate”.

"The LEP’s priority has been bidding for funds and it has been remarkably effective with almost £1bn won." - Mike Damms

“East Lancashire, for example, has publicised general progress to all its members and then used focus groups to refine the priorities for investment that have been honed through our local partnerships and consultations. The structures in the west are different.”

“In that context Lancashire’s LEP first priority has been bidding for funds for Lancashire, and it has been remarkably effective with almost £1bn won.

“It is, for example, timely for the stakeholder group, which East Lancashire chairs and North and West Lancashire is invited to, to act on its communication remit and to review Boost (the growth hub), and wider business support, as well as formalising its advisory and scrutiny role in the LEP.”

However, he is adamant NWLCC is not trying to pick a fight with anyone. He said the questions that sparked his statement followed a critical letter at the end of last year from central government about the LEP’s delivery record.

"We don’t want fights; we are not starting a fight with anyone." - Norman Tenray

He added: “We don’t want fights; we are not starting a fight with anyone. We are trying to feedback positively the results and say ‘come on, we better do something moving forward’. That’s a good thing.”

Norman added: “The publicity generated by these results has led to support from all corners of the county where people are equally frustrated at the lack of transparency and engagement by the LEP.”

He wants to see Blackpool’s Enterprise Zone move more quickly than the LEP initiatives at Warton and Samlesbury, adding: “This is an ideal opportunity to get some momentum.”

However, he doesn’t see that as a problem. “The issue is not the representation of NWLCC on the LEP, but the lack of consultation which this body has with businesses within the county.”

NWLCC was not present at the last two LEP SME consultation forums. It was also absent from a recent large scale private-public consultation event on the future of business support in the county.

"This will have been seen and noted in Whitehall. We are not going back to those bad old days."

He added: “We propose an annual conference where businesses in Lancashire can be updated on LEP activity and can give their views and ideas on possible future activity.

“However, as the chamber’s own survey recognises, respondents wanted the LEP to focus on getting support to businesses and helping businesses to grow,” he added.

John Kersey, chairman of the county branch of the Institute of Directors, said: “NWLCC’s comments seem a little out of kilter. A discussion between the chambers’ members seems more appropriate rather than open public debate about the workings of the LEP.

"We all would like a fairer more affluent Lancashire. The LEP has the power to deliver this." - John Kersey

“After all we all would like a fairer more affluent Lancashire. The LEP has the power to deliver this for all of Lancashire's residents.”

“An Enterprise Zone has been secured; we have won a City Deal and done extremely well in attracting significant pots of cash for business support from both national and European budgets.

“The county’s Boost initiative is the most comprehensive business support project that I have seen anywhere in the UK.

"We should acknowledge the LEP’s tremendous ability to actually get things done despite the lack of resource it has been given." - Frank McKenna

Publisher's comment: NWLCC stands alone in damning of Partnership

The attack on Lancashire’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) by the leadership of one of the county’s business organisations has been branded ‘bizarre’, ‘ill-conceived’, ‘out of kilter’ and ‘reckless’ by other leaders.

The broadside, by the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce (NWLCC), sparked negative headlines and led to the county council’s economic development director Martin Kelly responding with a robust public defence of the LEP’s track record, including the development of a £1bn growth programme.

The public airing of perceived grievances has left leading business voices baffled and concerned about the message it sends to the outside world and those holding the purse strings.

And the timing of the NWLCC commentary has been questioned too.

Nonetheless, NWLCC President Norman Tenray declared: “We have been saying for some time now that the LEP does not consult Lancashire businesses enough and this is the proof.”

"Lobbying, it strikes us, is more likely to draw results than lobbing bricks." - Richard Slater

About a hundred or so responses then? They wouldn’t say. And, while we also don’t know how many responded to the specific LEP questions, we do know they self-selected.

NWLCC appears to be on its own here. The business voice for Lancashire is becoming increasingly united and any differences are debated in private. NWLCC has self-excluded from some of these forums and was notably absent from a recent ‘gathering of the tribes’ where the private and public sectors came together to consider the future of business support in the county. It is not the LEP who is letting down members of NWLCC.

There is still Lancashire blood staining the walls of Vince Cable’s office from the pummelling our business leaders received at the start of the last parliamentary term. There were talks of bipartite and even tripartite approaches to the county’s pursuit of an Enterprise Partnership to which Cable said: “One county, one voice: sort yourselves out.”

And if the LEP has not been perfect in communicating its strategies and successes, it’s hardly hidden them either – Google ‘Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’ and you’ll see.

And there’s the rub. That’s what the representative bodies are for: reading, assimilating, sharing, consulting and lobbying.

Enjoyed this? Read more from Lancashire Business View

Latest news

1

Breck to deliver £150m of affordable homes over four years Breck Development In Progress

Breck to deliver £150m of affordable homes over four years

18 Jul 2024

2

Business board launches to support county's economic growth Lancashire Business Board

Business board launches to support county's economic growth

18 Jul 2024

3

Notarianni Ice Cream Parlour Scoops Up Energy Efficiency Notarianni.jpeg.jpg

Notarianni Ice Cream Parlour Scoops Up Energy Efficiency

19 Jul 2024

4

Thirteen new contract wins in three months for seoBusiness SeoBusiness Contract Wins

Thirteen new contract wins in three months for seoBusiness

19 Jul 2024

5

Blackburn Hotspots: Filling a big hole Blackburn Hotspots Lineup

Blackburn Hotspots: Filling a big hole

19 Jul 2024

Bec Web Strip 980x120
Background image for hub sign up block

LBV Hub

Leverage Lancashire Business View platforms

Post your news
Post your events
Post your offers
Build your network
Improve your SEO
Gain coverage in the magazine
Sign-up
Events
Lancashire Built Environment Conference
BEC 315 X 315 Px
Networking
25 Sep 2024

Lancashire Built Environment Conference

Conference and Exhibition Centre, Winter Gardens Blackpool, FY1 1HL

08:30 - 13:00

RISE - The Academy for Female Leaders and Managers
WENDY BOWERS RISE Illustrstion copy.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Seminars
11 Jun 2024 - 04 Dec 2024

RISE - The Academy for Female Leaders and Managers

East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, Clayton le Moors, BB5 5JR

09:00 - 16:30

What are Menopause Action Plans & How to Write One
Menopause Action Plan 2024.png.png
LBV Hub Webinar
19 Jul 2024

What are Menopause Action Plans & How to Write One

~ Online ~, ~ Online ~, ~ Online ~

12:30 - 13:00

Business Networking in Fylde, Blackpool
Blackpool Fylde Image.jpg.jpg
LBV Hub Networking
19 Jul 2024

Business Networking in Fylde, Blackpool

Village Hotel Blackpool, Blackpool, FY3 8LL

07:30 - 09:30

Preston Freelancer MeetUp and Coworking Day
Screenshot 2024-06-13 at 13.55.10.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
30 Jul 2024

Preston Freelancer MeetUp and Coworking Day

Society1 Coworking Space, Preston, PR1 3LT

10:00 - 12:00

Skills Bootcamp in Procurement - Cohort 1
Blue-Modern-Land-Travel-Youtube-Thumbnail-2-1024x576.png.png
LBV Hub Seminars
30 Jul 2024 - 08 Oct 2024

Skills Bootcamp in Procurement - Cohort 1

Community & Business Partners CIC, Blackburn, BB2 3UA

09:30 - 13:00

Scaling your revenue: From zero to £1m in 60 months
CBP-logo LBV.png.png
LBV Hub Webinar
31 Jul 2024

Scaling your revenue: From zero to £1m in 60 months

Online, Online, Online

08:00 - 09:30

Chamber Breakfast Networking
Chamber Logo1.png.png
LBV Hub Networking
31 Jul 2024

Chamber Breakfast Networking

Pye Motors, Morecambe, LA3 3PF

08:00 - 10:00

Online Women's Health Clinic
clinic.png.png
LBV Hub Webinar
06 Aug 2024

Online Women's Health Clinic

x, Online, x

12:00 - 12:00

International Coworking Day Open Day
1.png.png
LBV Hub Social
09 Aug 2024 - 09 Aug 2024

International Coworking Day Open Day

Society1 Coworking Space, Prestin, PR1 3 LT

10:00 - 13:00

Knowledge & Networking: Basic Digital Marketing
Chamber Logo1.png.png
LBV Hub Seminars
12 Aug 2024

Knowledge & Networking: Basic Digital Marketing

Lancaster Golf Club, Lancaster, LA2 0AJ

14:00 - 13:00

Sub36 Networking Event - The Bee Centre
Sub36 Socialbee Centre
Networking
15 Aug 2024

Sub36 Networking Event - The Bee Centre

The Bee Centre, Chorley, PR6 8LZ

15:00 - 17:00

Advertise with us

Reaching 50,000 members, our print, digital and event platforms offer a fantastic way to raise your business profile and help you grow.

Find out more LBV116 Online Graphic
Subscribe now

Weekly news bulletin