‘End of an era’ for GFirst LEP

The confirmation that government core funding for LEPs will end in March 2024 marks the ‘end of an era and the start of a new chapter’ for GFirst LEP, according to its chief executive.

By Michelle Fyrne  |  Published
Chief executive, David Owen, has said the end of government funding for GFirst is 'just a new beginning'.

Confirmation that funding from central government for LEPs across the UK will end in March 2024 means ‘things are changing’ at Gloucestershire's Local Enterprise Partnership, GFirst LEP, its chief executive David Owen has revealed, stating ‘this is not the end, but just a new beginning for economic development and growth in the county’.

Following a period of uncertainty about the financial future of LEPs nationwide, the official governmental announcement on 4 August 2023 confirms the chancellor’s statement in March 2023, that the government was ‘minded to’ withdraw financial support for LEPs.

A nine-week governmental ‘information gathering exercise’ was conducted, looking at whether the functions currently undertaken by LEPs — including business representation, local economic planning and delivery of government programmes — could be delivered by local government in the future, with this decision now confirmed, that from April 2024 the government’s sponsorship and funding of LEPs will cease and support will now be given to local and combined authorities to take on the functions currently delivered by LEPs.

So, what does this mean for GFirst? According to Owen ‘it is now time to move forward in a bold and positive way to keep delivering sustainable economic growth for the county’. And, as well as thanking everyone for their support, he asked the county to ‘please stick with us as we develop the pathway for the future’.

Owen said: ‘We've achieved a huge amount over the last decade or so and demonstrated the power of partnership, collaboration, and a local focus. And when I say we... I mean the brilliant team of people that work for us, the board, the business community of Gloucestershire, our local authorities, the voluntary and community sector, our public sector friends, our educators, and our politicians. It has been a genuine partnership.’

According to its mission statement, GFirst was launched in 2011 to ‘promote economic growth in the county, create jobs and provide real opportunities for businesses in the region,’ and there has been an outpouring of public support for the work that Gloucestershire's LEP has contributed to the county for more than a decade on social media platforms since the news broke — with Gloucestershire business leaders describing GFirst as a ‘huge force for good’, which has achieved 'some amazing and sustainable changes for the county' as just a few examples.   

With a delivery plan already in place until March 2024, Owen said over the coming months ‘we'll be working across GFirst LEP, Gloucestershire's Local Enterprise Partnership and Gloucestershire County Council — along with our partners — to develop a new economic strategy for Gloucestershire, as well as to firm up how growth will be supported in the future.’

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