LEPs, growth and EU funds

Oliver Henman was Head of Partnerships & International at NCVO, and blogged about civil society around the world. Oliver left NCVO in July 2014 but his posts have been kept here for reference.

Recently the government set out guidance on the priorities for the future of EU Structural and Investment Funds in England. This outlines the key steps that each local area needs to take to engage with their local communities on the major priorities for their area. The total funds available are over £5bn in a seven year period from 2014-2020 and of these funds, 500 million is intended for social inclusion priorities.

You can read the supplementary guidance for the 39 English Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) on how to develop their EU strategies for 2014-2020. Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have each been allocated a specific portion of these funds and are now seeking views from local groups on the key priorities for their area, so this is your chance to get involved!

What is a LEP?

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are local partnerships between local authorities, businesses and wider economic partners, including voluntary community and social enterprise organisations. LEPs are locally led and managed and vary in terms of their size and membership. We have been working closely with our local civil society partners to identify how you can get involved in helping to set local priorities.

What should you be calling for?

We feel there are real opportunities for organisations to engage with their LEPs to ensure that EU funds are able to address their needs. We believe these funds could be delivered in a much more meaningful way if LEPs work with local voluntary and community organisations. Many of these local organisations are extremely well placed to understand and respond to the needs of local communities.

Based on the key recommendations that we have gathered over the last 18 months consulting with charities, social enterprises, and co-operatives in England, we are able to support local organisations on a range of areas including

1. Social inclusion

We believe that renewed growth can only be built on an inclusive economy that supports those who have been excluded over recent years.

There’s a real opportunity here as the Big Lottery Fund has offered to provide match funding for these kinds of local projects– you can read their offer for match funding in full on the Government website.

2. Social innovation

We’d also encourage LEPs to make the most of the potential for more innovative forms of local service delivery and we feel that the EU funds could be used to unlock greater innovation and more effective services.

This could include support for innovation hubs or competitions to identify fresh approaches to challenging social and economic situations.

3. Community-led approach

One of the potential methods for a more localised approach is the use of Community-Led Local Development. This hinges around enabling Local Action Groups to come together and jointly identify particular priorities for a specific geographic area. This works particularly well when there is a specific need within a defined geographic area.

We have a wide range of experts within our membership who have already worked with this method and who are ready to support areas that are looking to deepen its use.

4. Volunteer time

In the latest Guidance it is clear that volunteer time is a viable way to match fund projects. This is also a very strong way to engage local communities as it ensures that organisations with limited financial resources can provide their own match funding from their volunteer time.

We believe that engaging volunteers will ensure a much more embedded approach and will allow very small organisations to contribute directly into the new programme.

5. Social investment

Finally there is a real chance for local areas to enhance their activity in this area by prioritising the use of social investment funds. These can be used to establish Local Impact Funds which would enable local investors from the private sector to contribute to an overall fund which in turn would offer financial match for specific projects.

You can read all our full statement on the opportunities for local partners here.

Who is my LEP and what are they doing about the future of EU funding?

Having looked at all 39 LEP websites, see the list of LEPs according to region (to help you locate your LEP) and their activities, plus the key voluntary sector contact person. Please note this is not a definitive list, if your LEP is not there, this does not mean that they are not working on their EU strategies! Please do contact us if you have more information we can share!

What happens next?

ESF logoThe LEPs have until the beginning of October to submit their first drafts of EU strategies. If you are working on the SIF strategies for a LEP, or if you are from a civil society organisation involved in European funding, NCVO will be holding an event on 25 September 2013 to bring together LEPs and the sector.

You are welcome to come to share your expertise and help influence the LEPs’ future priorities. More information about the event can be found on our website.

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