Further concerns have emerged regarding the work of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) which receives millions from Government to allocate to local transport schemes, skills training and supporting key sectors like Science and Agri-Tech in order to deliver economic growth and create jobs.
Today I have issued a statement following further research into the documentation of the LEP, which sets out concerns regarding how conflicts of interest have been managed by the LEP, particularly relating to a building contract worth an estimated £20 million to £24 million awarded on the Alconbury site which the LEP was also prioritising for investment. The Managing Director of the building firm was the Chair of the LEP.
I have identified a massive gap in funding for Agri-Tech in Fenland compared with our neighbouring districts of Kings Lynn & West Norfolk and East Cambridgeshire. The gap in funding appears much bigger than figures released by the LEP last week, and may be even greater still once grants from New Anglia are included. The money available for Agr-Tech schemes also appears much greater than previously reported, with projects pre-approved in the pipeline potentially widening this funding gap.
There are issues regarding the work of the Agri-Tech sub-committee, its members links to the Soham Innovation Centre which was chosen ahead of a Fenland bid for a scheme in Chatteris, and the transparency and accountability of the sub-committee.
I have also questioned why the Chair of the LEP has rejected my request for a public consultation on the area covered by the LEP without a full Board discussion. This is significant as it relates to £200 million of future business rates revenue, and in particular whether this is spent outside of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. The LEP refusal of my suggestion has been made even though there is a Government report recommending this change, and without regard to the recent devolution which merits aligning the LEP territory of the new Mayor and Combined Authority.
The LEP has also made allegations against Cambridgeshire County Council and Fenland District Council in response to concerns I raised at my meeting with them on 20th January, and in my 13th January and 15th January statements regarding failures on Wisbech Rail, the dualling of the A47, and the number and quality of Agri-Tech bids. They have not, however, provided any evidence to substantiate these allegations.