Lancashire enterprise zone debate escalates

Message: Babs Murphy
Message: Babs Murphy
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Lack of progress on one of Lancashire’s flagship job creation projects is causing “great concern”, business leaders said today.

The North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce waded into the controversy after claims that the Lancashire Enterprise Zone had been branded the “worst in the country” by Government ministers. Two zones have been earmarked near BAE sites in Warton and Samlesbury but work has yet to start. The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership – which is in charge of the zones – this week defended itself and said delays had hampered the project but it would take off next year.

Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the chamber of commerce, said: “As well as a lack of progress there has been a clear failure of communication at the highest levels of the LEP and Lancashire County Council and it doesn’t bode well for the EZ or, indeed, the LEP going forward.”

The Chamber said it had been unable to help the LEP since being removed from the board earlier this year. Ms Murphy added: “The inner workings of the LEP have to be made more transparent otherwise the business community will rapidly start to lose all faith in what the LEP is trying to achieve.”

Edwin Booth, Chairman of Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: “The ministers’ letter included some eye-catching remarks but does not reflect the positive relationship the LEP has with the Government or the LEP’s excellent track record in delivering a range of programmes across Lancashire.

“We have taken the letter seriously and I’ve been able to assure the Government that the enterprise zone is on track to deliver the first of 6,000 new jobs in 2015.”

Jennifer Mein, leader of the county council, said: “As a board member of the LEP I certainly support the view that the ministers’ letter failed to reflect the considerable work going on to develop the enterprise zone or the fact that the goals around job creation are on track. I acknowledge the development of the enterprise zone has proved more difficult than may have been anticipated when it was initiated three years ago but the LEP must make sure the enterprise zone delivers and I’m confident it will.”