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Kent and Medway could break away from South East Local Enterprise Partnership, known as SELEP

By Paul Francis

Kent and Medway are set to break away from a regional jobs and investment partnership set up by the government, saying they can do the job better.

Kent County Council and Medway Council are proposing to leave the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, the organisation set up by the government five years ago to boost the area’s economy.

It is made up of business and political representatives and will invest £84m in the region this year.

From left, South East Local Enterprise Partnership East Sussex vice chair Derek Godfrey, Essex vice chair George Keiffer, chairman Peter Jones and Kent vice chair Geoff Miles

From left, South East Local Enterprise Partnership East Sussex vice chair Derek Godfrey, Essex vice chair George Keiffer, chairman Peter Jones and Kent vice chair Geoff Miles

But council chiefs say the SELEP, the second largest partnership of its kind outside London, is too bureaucratic and its current set-up is hampering the efforts to improve the Kent and Medway economy.

They also say it is unable to bridge an £118m annual funding shortfall needed for capital investment.

The proposal will create concerns that SELEP is set to lose two of its most significant players and may trigger others to contemplate breaking away.

One key focus of the new partnership would be a substantial increase in the number of homes built in the county.

"Faced with rapid growth, infrastructure constraints and complex skills challenges, there is a need for a stronger, locally-relevant partnership to plan for the future to unlock Kent and Medway’s growth opportunities...” - KCC report

Under the new partnership, by 2020 there would be an additional 2,350 homes built each year across both Kent and Medway on top of existing numbers.

SELEP is responsible for allocating funds to key investment projects – such as road schemes – across a region that includes Essex, East Sussex, Thurrock and Southend.

But is size has been a long-standing concern and Kent and Medway believe it has become too unwieldy.

They have questioned whether SELEP does anything more than simply act as a way of distributing government grants.

A report outlining the breakaway plan to be discussed this week by county councillors states: “Faced with rapid growth, infrastructure constraints and complex skills challenges, there is a need for a stronger, locally-relevant partnership to plan for the future to unlock Kent and Medway’s growth opportunities.”

The report, “The Compelling Case For Change” contends the SELEP “slows down the delivery of our ambitions” and the new partnership “will deliver faster and better for Kent and Medway".

“Kent and Medway is growing rapidly. It is vital we plan strategically to deliver the infrastructure we need...to do this, we need a simpler, stronger partnership for long-term growth."

KCC leader Cllr Paul Carter is to meet the county’s MPs tomorrow to outline the proposal, which will be submitted to the government.

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