POLITICS
01/05/2014 08:02 BST | Updated 01/05/2014 11:59 BST

Vince Cable Slams 'Messy' Local Enterprise Partnerships That He Helped Launch

Business Secretary Vince Cable reacts during a visit to the Grown-Up Chocolate Company in Enfield as he announces 300 million to boost small and medium sized businesses, London.
Anthony Devlin/PA Archive
Business Secretary Vince Cable reacts during a visit to the Grown-Up Chocolate Company in Enfield as he announces 300 million to boost small and medium sized businesses, London.

Vince Cable has questioned the coalition's "messy" system to help businesses across the regions of Britain and admitted that ministers may not have "got it right".

The Liberal Democrat business secretary said he was sceptical of whether local enteprrise partnerships (LEPs) and the "City Deal" project, which the government ushered in to replace regional development agencies (RDAs), had been successful.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg set out the coalition's new system in 2010, with Cable saying: "Local enterprise partnerships will provide that vision and then take on the task of renewing local economies and tackling local barriers to growth."

However Cable admitted on Wednesday that he had doubts about the sustainability of the coalition's new system.

"We made a decision to get rid of the RDAs - there were plusses and minuses: some people argued for a more gradualist approach, others for a Maoist approach, and we got the latter," he told an event organised by the Institute for Government.

"We have been trying to create, from scratch, a full new institutional framework. The LEPs, and then superimposed on that City Deals, and it feels a bit messy actually.

"I'm not sure we've got it right and, equally, I'm not sure how much buy-in there is elsewhere from other parties. So a lot of the industrial strategy is now durable but there is that one area where there has been great disruption."

Labour MP Willie Bain, member of the Commons business select committee, told HuffPostUK that Cable had made an "extraordinary admission" about the coalition's regional growth policies.

He said: "This is an extraordinary admission from Vince Cable. Having scrapped RDAs, he now admits that may have weakened support for balanced economic growth across the country.

"The government has not got to grips with the real problems underlying patchy regional growth - lack of finance to businesses from the banks, failure to adopt a proper skills strategy, poor levels of business investment and soaring job insecurity. Unless it does, it will not be taken seriously on its commitment to balanced regional growth."

Ann McKechin, fellow Labour committee member, said: "I think Vince prefers his role as the perfect armchair critic rather than actually taking responsibility for the mess.

"The BIS committee had a major inquiry into LEPs last year with a full list of shortcomings. On all our visits outside Westminster, it is mentioned that the scrapping of RDAs in England has been a major setback and many tell me they look on enviously at Scottish Enterprise role north of the border."

A Business Department spokesperson said: "The Secretary of State was not expressing doubts about the Government's local growth policy, he was contrasting the broad support for long-term industrial strategy with the more diverse range of views on decentralisation."

Cable previously said that the scrapping of regional development agencies had been "little Maoist and chaotic", but added that "we're giving back to councils and local authorities the powers and incentives they need to see a resurgence in civic pride."

See also: 8 Examples Of How Vince Cable Loves Fighting With The Tories

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