Monday, 26 May 2014

The regional challenge

Understandably party leaders across South Essex are currently concentrating on the future of their respective councils but when that job is done a greater challenge will remain on the regional level. The current system of LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships) is the portal for channeling central government and European funding to local authorities. We are members of the largest LEP comprising 3 counties of Essex, Kent and East Sussex and 3 unitaries of Southend, Thurrock and Medway. The LEP has an economy larger than Belgium and is intended as a counterbalance to London. Working with John Kent, the Labour Leader of Thurrock, we have ensured that both authorities and our business communities retain seats on the main board and, following initial problems with the size of the organisation, have ensured a federal structure comprising East Sussex, Kent & Medway, Thames Gateway South Essex, and the rest of Essex. This ensures that South Essex retains control of its own destiny rather than be absorbed into greater Essex and builds on the strong South Essex partnership which has been in place for a number of years. However of the South Essex leaders I have stepped down, Pam Challis from Castle Point and Tony Ball from Basildon have lost their own seats and control, and labour has lost control of Thurrock. This leaves only Terry Cutmore of Rochford and the representative from Essex County Council in place. Whoever end up as the leaders across South Essex need to grasp the challenge of the LEP and TGSE quickly to ensure the hard fought progress over recent years is not lost and if those leaders have not previously been part of a ruling administration they may have limited knowledge of the importance of these groups or the challenge in time and effort that will be required of them.

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