LIBERAL DEMOCRATS are calling for the Local Enterprise Partnership for Gloucestershire to hold its board meetings in public.
The 'GFirst LEP' is one of 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) in England set up to drive sustainable economic growth in the country. It deals with large sums of public money and is funding a number of big projects across Gloucestershire. In partnership with the private, public and voluntary sectors, ‘GFirst LEP’ have secured a historic Growth Deal with the Government to invest £77.5 million in Gloucestershire.
Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (LD: Kingsholm and Wotton), who will be making the request at the next County Council meeting in Shire Hall on Wednesday 7th December, said:
"We strongly believe there should be a much greater level of transparency than currently exists.
"I am aware that the agenda and notes of board meetings can be found on the GFirst website, but I don't believe this level of openness goes far enough.
"Bids like those once decided by the Local Transport Boards (LTBs) should not be made behind closed doors, but in the public domain."
The Local Transport Boards (LTBs) were established with a remit to decide on major transport priorities between 2015 and 2019. Five schemes were prioritised for funding via the local Board, which was awarded £9.8m to fund them.
The role of the Board however came to an end in March of this year and now large transport projects are decided through the LEP instead.
Cllr. Hilton added:
"The Gloucestershire Local Transport Board (GLTB) held its last public meeting on 10th February 2016.
"As a member of the public, I observed first-hand the decisions taken by the Board.
"In the spirit of openness and transparency, I would like to call on the GFirst LEP to start holding their board meetings in public. Especially, as the Chancellor announced in his Autumn Statement £1.8bn in Local Growth Fund to English regions, which Gloucestershire will get a share of."
Cllr. Joe Harris (LD: Cirencester Park) who is also Chair of the Gloucestershire Economic Growth Scrutiny Committee in support of the motion also said:
"I value the work of the GFirst LEP. There are currently fourteen worthwhile projects going through the approval and funding process including the Gloucestershire Renewable Energy Project, the Engineering and Nuclear (GREEN) Project, the STEM Project and Cyber Skills Centre Project.
“To date, 11 projects have progressed on in to implementation at a value of £29.88m.
"As Chair of the County Council's Economic Growth Scrutiny Committee, I would like to think we have a good working relationship with both the CEO and Chair of the GFirst LEP.
"It would be good however to see the GFirst LEP setting an example to other LEPs across the country by opening up their board meetings to both press and members of the public.
"I do believe it is in the public interest for such meetings to be open. I hope our request is taken as a positive suggestion and receives the cross-party support it deserves at the next council meeting in December."