A REPORT published today by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) calls on Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to place small businesses at the heart of their plans for local economic growth.

The FSB believes that LEPs are the right vehicle to deliver local economic growth across England but stresses that the voice of small businesses needs to be better represented within LEPs.

Small and medium sized businesses have been responsible for four in five jobs created in the private sector between 2010 and 2013, and represent half of private sector turnover.

However, the report finds that large businesses are perceived to have most influence within LEPs.

Two in five local authorities and two thirds of FSB representatives surveyed feeling that large businesses exert the greatest influence over LEPs.

The research finds that many LEPs would be better placed to maximise local growth opportunities if they consulted more effectively with the small business community.

A case in point is around procurement support.

Three quarters of small businesses want LEPs to offer procurement advice as part of their business support package, but only a quarter of LEPs are planning to offer this kind of service.

While it is important for LEPs to reform their strategic role, the FSB wants to see them become more effective at providing the advice and services small businesses need.

Neil Eames, development manager for the FSB Wessex Region, said: “The report is important particularly at a time when the LEPs are set to deliver a number of high-profile projects locally.

“LEPs are crucial to delivering local economic growth. While some have done a good job of reaching out to the small business community, others need to up their game.

“Small firms will ultimately be the ones creating most of the jobs and prosperity in the private sector, so it is absolutely essential that they are at the heart of LEPs plans.

“LEPs will be handling billions of public money between now and 2021 and it is important to understand how it is being spent.”