PAC warning on "high risk" devolution deals
The Public Accounts Committee has recommended that “high risk” devolution plans giving Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) widespread adult education budget spending powers must be subjected to far more stringent scrutiny. Committee Chair Meg Hillier insisted that all public money spent by LEPs or skills boards must be traceable, after an investigation alleged that some LEPs had made large payments to companies or projects connected with their own board members. She also expressed concerns that central government seemed to distance itself from all accountability for devolution and funding. She said: “This high-risk strategy is squarely in the sights of our committee. Our concerns are not addressed to the policy of devolution but rather the risks inherent in its implementation”.
LEPs already control a lot of FE capital funds, and last month’s autumn statement confirmed that the government is pushing ahead with plans to devolve the AEB. The PAC report questioned where responsibility for any failure to deliver good value or errors lay, and worried about the “opaque” nature of accountability for LEP activities. LEPs are currently negotiating local growth deals from a five-year £12 billion fund.
Mark Reeve, Chair of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP said on behalf of the LEP Network Board, that “It is not the role of the LEP Network to monitor how LEPs allocate grant funding or assess conflicts of interest. The government has clearly vested that role in the democratically elected councils who are accountable for monitoring conflicts of interest and ensuring how grant funding is awarded by the LEPs.”