Row between Humber and Lincolnshire business chiefs has cost the region £200,000
Should North Lincolnshire go with the Humber LEP or the Greater Lincolnshire LEP?
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 28 Mar 2019
The argument over whether the Humber area should include swathes of northern Lincolnshire has seen the region fined £200,000.
Whitehall chiefs have written to the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the Greater Lincolnshire LEP to inform them that the money – £100,000 each – will be withheld while they continue to row over which one gets to hang on to North Lincolnshire Council.
And this could be just a taste of what is to come – Communities Secretary James Brokenshire has warned both sides that "access to funding in the future" was reliant on a resolution being found.
Ministers have decided that EU regional funding granted to northern Lincolnshire will in be distributed via the LEPs after Brexit.
But in order to avoid duplicate funding bids, the Government wants each council to be represented by just a single LEP. Currently, North East Lincolnshire Council (NELC) and North Lincolnshire Council have one foot in the Humber LEP and the other in the Greater Lincolnshire LEP – a situation the Government says cannot continue. For the region, its Brexit money is at stake.
And while NELC has been the happier of the two to leave the Lincolnshire body and transition solely to be with the Humber cohort, the Scunthorpe-based North Lincolnshire Council has been less satisfied.
With North Lincolnshire is home to heavy industry, in the form of Scunthorpe's steel works and the two South Bank oil refineries, the Greater Lincolnshire LEP is keen not to lose the council and wants to keep hold of the local authority.
The issue is – so does the Humber LEP, which sees holding onto all four councils, with the set-up completed by Hull City Council and the East Riding of Yorkshire Council on the north bank, as a key priority for the region’s future.
Communities secretary James Brokenshire MP said access to funding would depend on the LEPs settling their differences
The stand-off between the Humber and Greater Lincolnshire is one of the last boundary disputes in the country to remain unresolved and the pair have been punished as a result.
Bosses at the Cities and Local Growth Unit (CLGU) – the Government body that oversees the running of LEPs – wrote to the directors on either side of the estuary to inform them that they would not receive the same level of support as their sister organisations in other parts of the country because of the lack of compromise.
The LEPs had been due to receive additional funding to help them streamline in order to cope with the additional post-Brexit funding coming their way, as well as work towards finessing industrial strategies for their regions.
Rowena Limb, area director at the CLGU, told Greater Lincolnshire director Ruth Carver: "I can confirm that whilst we recognise that you have made progress towards settling your geographical overlaps, I am not able to release the full amount of additional capacity funding to Greater Lincolnshire LEP until such time as the overlap is finally resolved.
"I am, however, able to confirm that £100,000 in additional capacity funding has been allocated to you. This is in recognition of the efforts you have made to seek a resolution to date."
Similarly, Andrew Batterbee, a fellow area director for the CLGU, told the Humber LEP it would also see cash withheld. Kishor Tailor, the chief executive of the Hull-based LEP, wrote back to say he was "disappointed" at the outcome but assured efforts were being made to find a resolution.
A spokesman for the Humber LEP said: "We are working hard with our partners to develop an ambitious industrial strategy for the Humber that will build on our region’s unique strengths.
"Government has allocated some extra funding to enable LEPs to commission additional research and analysis to support the development of their local industrial strategies.
Ruth Carver, director of the Greater Lincolnshire LEP, has been told £100,000 will be held back because of the boundary row (Image: Grimsby Telegraph)
"We hope the remaining funding allocated to us will be released soon, but in the meantime we are continuing to develop our plans and receiving positive feedback from our discussions with Government officials."
The December-issued financial punishment has focused minds in both counties on finding a resolution to the boundary row.
The Greater Lincolnshire LEP was understood to favour a merger of the two LEPs but sources suggest the proposal was not well received.
There have since been on-going talks between the two quasi-public-private agencies about working closer together on regional priorities, with an idea formulating around establishing an "Eastern Corridor" stretching from Lincolnshire up to North Yorkshire.
That would not solve the North Lincolnshire boundary overlap in the short-term but it is hoped that creating an even closer relationship could take the heat out of the row and lead to joint bids coming forth for investment cash for the wider region.
According to a briefing paper put to Humber LEP board members, the collaboration would see three LEPs work collaboratively – the Humber, Greater Lincolnshire, and North York and Yorkshire – on certain areas.
It was described as an "additional means to champion north/south connectivity through our region and neighbouring areas, bridging between the Transport for the North and Midlands Connect strategies for which this has not been a primary focus".
It continued: "It would also provide a means to facilitate collaborative approaches on coastal and rural issues, including tourism and agriculture, which have not historically been a focus for the Humber LEP. A collaborative approach could be an effective way of the LEPs addressing these issues in the current overlap areas, and facilitating the continuation of current cross-boundary working."
The Humber LEP has a strong background on the offshore wind sector
In layman’s terms, the Eastern Corridor would see the LEPs share expertise rather than attempt to do everything themselves. The Humber LEP has a strong background in ports and green energy, while the Greater Lincolnshire LEP has detailed knowledge of the food and tourism sector. Under the plans, the two would share this knowledge far more.
Greater Lincolnshire would still keep its responsibility for growth in the central and southern areas of the county, while also focusing on creating the "A1 growth corridor", looking at skills improvement in the region and working on answers to automation in the food sector.
It would then come together to work with the Humber LEP on ports and logistics and A15 to A46 connectivity, and then all three would combine on issues to do with energy, coastal-related improvements and rural business.
Both LEPs declined to comment when approached about the Eastern Corridor proposal but it is due to be discussed again when the Greater Lincolnshire LEP board meets next and it is understood it was raised at the Humber board meeting on Friday, March 22, with talks set to continue.
The trouble for the LEPs is the Eastern Corridor may well be a pragmatic approach to working around their differences on the boundary dispute, but it is hardly likely to satisfy Government demands that councils must be represented by only one LEP before the UK leaves the European Union.
Whitehall has shown its teeth by holding back internal money from the two LEPs, a move that has hurt the organisations but not yet the Humber. The region will not enjoy experiencing its bite, however, if it means losing out on windfalls of investment after Brexit.