MPs are considering a bill to ensure all Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have at least one co-operative or social enterprise expert on their boards.
Jim Dobbin, Labour/Co-op MP for Heywood and Middleton, presented his 10-minute rule bill on 11 March. He says more needs to be done to create a level playing field for the establishment and development of co-operatives, whose needs are often different from those of other businesses.
LEPs are partnerships between local authorities and businesses, created by the Coalition government in 2010 to drive public sector growth and reduce administrative burdens.
A report by the Work Foundation found that they need to widen their engagement to include a more diverse group of employers, and last year the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee said LEPs lacked the right balance and diversity of membership on their boards.
Mr Dobbin said his bill “would enhance the quality of the LEP and the chances of kick-starting new co-operative and social enterprise organisations”. He said he was also concerned over the scrapping of regional development agencies, which were replaced by LEPs, after a report by the Smith Institute found that LEPs have negligible budgets and no real powers to lead economic development in their areas.
Mr Dobbin consulted co-operatives across the country to draw up the bill. “The responses have been overwhelmingly supportive of my aims,” he added. “Many co-operatives have told me that they are struggling to engage with or be understood by LEPs. I hope to continue this work in the coming months.”
Mark Sesnan, chief executive of Greenwich Leisure, a co-operative which runs over 115 leisure facilities across the country, gave his support to the bill. “When I was on the board of the now-defunct Business Link for London, I was amazed at how little understanding there was of alternative business models, and these were professional business advisers,” he said.
The bill is due for its second reading on 6 June.