MPs have criticised an organisation which funded infrastructure projects in Peterborough before being liquidated.
A report by the Public Accounts Committee said the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (GCGP LEP) “did not comply with expected standards in public life, particularly in terms of accountability and transparency” and singled out former chairman Mark Reeve for criticism.
The committee’s inquiry focused on the LEP which went into voluntary liquidation in December 2017 amid concerns about the way it had been run.
The LEP agreed to wind itself up and will be replaced by a Business Board run by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority from April 1.
The MPs pressed Mr Reeve about a potential conflict of interest because his construction company had the contract to build on a site, while the LEP was advising on what infrastructure should be at the location.
In their report, the MPs recorded their “displeasure” at his conduct when giving evidence, adding: “He failed to appreciate the importance of good governance, showed a lack of remorse about the outcome for GCGP LEP and was evasive when questioned about his potential conflict of interest.”
Sajid Javid’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government was also told it needs to “get its act together” to ensure public money is not being wasted after being condemned by the MPs for the way it oversaw the local partnerships between councils and businesses.
Some £9.1 billion of taxpayers’ money has been committed to growth deals with LEPs between 2015 and 2021, but the way the process is handled has been characterised by “complexity and confusion”, the cross-party report said.
The MPs said: “The department needs to get its act together and assure taxpayers that it is monitoring how LEPs spend taxpayers’ money and how it evaluates
The committee’s chairwoman Meg Hillier said: “Local Enterprise Partnerships are not an abstract concept on a Whitehall flipchart.
“They are making real decisions about real money that affect real people.
“This troubling case only serves to underline our persistent concerns about the governance of LEPs, their transparency and their accountability to the taxpayer.”
She added: “Taxpayers surveying the increasingly complex landscape of local government might reasonably ask what LEPs are for.
“It is wholly unacceptable that central government does not have a clear, up-to-date answer to that question.”