THE funding body charged with boosting the South West's economy hasn't had its fair share of Government money, its new chief executive admitted to Torbay businessmen.
Chris Garcia, the new chief executive of the Heart of South West Local Enterprise Partnership, told Torbay Business Forum their priority was economic growth, jobs and prosperity.
But the partnership has a staff of two, including himself, and only limited funds.
The third new LEP chief executive in two years warned they could not be involved in delivering projects, but they aimed to act as matchmakers for businesses, helping them draw down funds from many sources.
The LEP which covers Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay is "very slim", and is a strategic organisation rather than a body which will deliver projects.
It will focus on four priorities including infrastructure such as energy and transport, improving workforce skills, attracting inward investment, and supporting business enterprise, innovation and growth.
Churston businessman Richard Haddock, a representative of the Federation of Small Business, warned that too much money is going on "leaches" rather than to business direct.
"At the moment I only see money being spent on what you would call facilitators and I would call leaches. Most small business entrepreneurs are totally hacked off with the bureaucracy and red tape and how much the leaches are taking for doing the paperwork mountain. If you want £50,000 to start up a new business, the leaches take £30,000. Most of us have no confidence in LEPs as they are today."
Mr Garcia, who had run his own family business, said: "I know the issue for business is cash and your time. I would say if you can do what you need without involving the public sector just get on with it.
"Government set the agendas and we have to work with what Government tell us, we have to jump through their hoops.
"I want to make the most of what we have and attract as much as we can from the funding streams. But there are 150 pages of guidance on the latest funding. I will have to employ consultants to get at that money and spend far too much getting it.
"If there is some extra loan or investment, or help through working with universities we can introduce you to, then come to us."
Carolyn Custerson, chief executive of the English Riviera Tourism Company and chairman of Visit Devon, defended the LEP saying: "Your presentation gives the most positive messages we have heard since the LEP started. There is a huge exciting feature ahead with LEPs and we need to work together to shape that future."
Mr Garcia admitted that historically the LEP had not had enough investment compared with other parts of the country. "I am really conscious of that and have shared that with our MPs and we are working to influence and overcome that."
He said they were also working with business organisations like the forum to improve jobs prospects.