Proper SME representation on our LEP

It is vital to get SME and micro-SME representation onto our new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) Board. Those business representatives must have a proper mandate from their business communities and their peers.  The Government have correctly identified that innovative SMEs will be the growth engine for the new jobs that will be needed to bring prosperity back to the UK.

“Good understanding of public policy at local and national level” will be provided by the local government representatives on the LEP board – it is far more important that the Business representatives have proven business expertise and are recognised innovators.

I was really concerned when I saw the recent LEP Board recruitment process which only called for candidates who have “grown and run significant businesses”  At first sight this would seem to completely exclude SME and Micro-SME representation. 

The original LEP submission used the term “significant businesses” as defined in the IDBR. The Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR) is a list of UK businesses maintained by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The IDBR defines “significant” as VAT and NI registered.  So I hope the wording of the recruitment paper is a mistake and will be rectified.

I think that it is really important that we have proper representation from SME’s in the new LEP.  I attended some of the Cambridge Network and Chamber of Commerce discussions earlier in the process.  At a meeting in Cambridge, Adam Marshall (the Policy Director) of the British Chamber of Commerce even suggested reserving a couple of LEP Board Positions specifically for SMEs.

There needs to be some form of proper remuneration as well as practical support from organisations like the Chamber, IoD and the Federation of Small Business if you are going to get SMEs to put their names forward.

All the LEP Board Members should be properly remunerated for their efforts -candidates from large organisations are not offering their services “pro-bono” unless they give up their company salaries and company expenses when they join the LEP Board. I suspect this is not the case. With a basic and fair remuneration scheme for all LEP Board Members there is less scope for supporting vested interest.

It is not clear who will be making the decisions on LEP Board appointments. The business members of the LEP board need some form of mandate from their business communities if they are to have an equality with the public sector representatives.

Will “business members” be provided with “commercial/professional indemnity insurance” for the decisions that the LEP  will be asked to make.

I really wish the LEP every success and was extremely impressed by the extraordinary efforts of Alex Plant, John Bridge,Matt Schofield and the whole interim board in getting the approval from Government to set up the LEP.  It would be a great shame if SME’s are not properly represented in the process going forward.

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