Ministers have published plans to ‘super charge’ the performance and accountability of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) following a review.
The review was ordered in reaction to concerns that England’s 38 LEPs are too complex, have poor governance structures and lack accountability.
Reforms include getting LEPs to consult ‘widely and transparently’ on the appointment of new chairs, as well as measures to improve board diversity. In particular, there is an expectation that women will make up at least one-third of LEP board members by 2020 and half of all board members by 2023.
Areas where two LEP geographies overlap have been asked to submit proposals for revised boundaries.
District Councils’ Network spokesman, Cllr Mark Crane, said: ‘We remain concerned that the removal of overlaps may limit the ability of district councils to drive growth across multiple LEP areas.’
LEPs will receive up to £20m of additional funding between 2018 and 2020 to support changes and embed their work into local industrial strategies.
President fo council directors' body ADEPT, Neil Gibson, said: 'We would caution against a move towards mergers in areas where the existing partnerships have a strong identity and are working well .
'In areas where there are issues with underperformance and transparency, we support the Government’s intention to develop peer review and intervention if required. It is only right that there should be scrutiny, accountability and support for any organisation that is part of public life.'
Local growth minister Jake Berry said: ‘This landmark shake-up of our LEPs will help us deliver on our pledge to deliver more than £12bn through the Local Growth Fund by 2021.’