BARRIE Grunewald has praised the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership for helping secure investment for St Helens.

The St Helens Council leader discussed the authority's relationship with the LEP during questioning from the environment, regeneration, housing, culture and leisure overview and scrutiny panel this morning.

The LEP provides strategic advice and guidance on economic development priorities for the City Region while the Combined Authority brings democratic accountability and oversight.

However, criticisms have been levelled at the LEP in the past that it is too Liverpool-centric.

Cllr Grunewald, who is on the board of the Liverpool City Region LEP, said: “The LEP can often be Liverpool dominated because of where it is based so can often seem remote.

“It is sometimes criticised for not engaging small businesses in St Helens.

"The reality is it cannot engage with the over 37,000 businesses that exists.

“It has to use a conduit – St Helens Chamber provides that link.”

Haydock councillor Martin Bond, chairman of the panel, asked what St Helens had gotten out of the LEP.

The council leader said the LEP does not give out funds so it was wrong to ask what St Helens gets in such a "narrow way".

Cllr Grunewald told councillors that the LEP has been “very influential” as a lobbying tool, particularly in terms of securing investment for St Helens.

He highlighted the LEP’s support of the Glass Futures project, which could see a 'centre of excellence' in glass training and research come to the town.

The project seeks to revolutionise glass manufacturing and reduce the industry's carbon emissions by at least 80 per cent.

“The single biggest inward investment project in a long time is a consequence of the LEP’s work,” he said.

“Similarly, the LEP were very influential in the Glass Futures project.

“Both the governor-elect and the chair of the LEP manufacturing board attended the event in London off their own back to show their support to a project that benefits St Helens.

“That sent a really powerful message to everyone that it was a supported project.”

Cllr Bond asked how the authority could better scrutinise the work of the LEP, but Cllr Grunewald replied saying the council had no mandate to do so.

The council leader said the LEP’s governance, accountability and transparency is seen as among the best of LEPs in recent times.