The Government has published the findings of its review into Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
The review sets out the approach taken by Government to strengthen LEPs, revealing how LEPs and Government will work together to strengthen leadership and capability, improve accountability and manage risk, and provide clarity on geography.
Words by Lord Haskins, Chair of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)
Last week Government published its review of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), setting out plans to strengthen the work that these organisations do. It is therefore a good time to reflect on what has been achieved so far, and what we need to do next.
First, it must be said that partnership in the Humber has never been stronger – amongst our four local authorities, with business and with the education and training sector. There is a genuine spirit of collaboration on the economy, working to a common agenda across our interlinked economic area, which is welcomed by all and recognised by ministers, investors and other partners. It cannot be underestimated how important that is.
This hard work behind the scenes rarely grabs the headlines, but it is precisely what LEPs were set up for. Our unique Single Conversation Group is a case in point: bringing together all the statutory agencies and local planning authorities to talk about major developments hardly sounds revolutionary, but it did not happen before and does not happen like this in any other part of the country. Delays and uncertainties add cost and put off investors, so our model can be the difference between projects happening on time and not happening at all.
Second, we spend a lot of time listening to the views of businesses of all sizes and sectors, such as on Brexit. LEPs are business-led and the voice of business matters and makes a difference. It is part of our decision-making at every level, and we use it to advocate our area’s interests.
Third, the LEP and our partners have creatively pulled in money from all corners of national government, local government, the EU, the private sector and others to make some important projects happen. In times of scarce resources it is important that everyone works together to make the most of what we have and what we can get. The road improvements, new flood defences, upgraded training facilities, re-started housing developments and other projects that have been enabled through the LEP and delivered by our partners tell the story. Just last week we announced a further £10m of investment in transport and housing across our region.
Our Enterprise Zone, the largest in the country by some margin, was the first to have a site fully occupied. Several more have joined it, and there are now dozens of new companies on it like Siemens Gamesa, Indivior and Cablescan, with well over a thousand new jobs created and more to come.
I am especially proud that our Investment Panel of businesspeople has invested over £25m to date in Humber businesses like Eltherington, Scratch Metals and Moulded Fibre Products to help them create more than 2,500 jobs.
Fourth, whilst we are focussed on the needs of our economy, we are keen to work across boundaries where it makes sense. We came together with 9 other LEPs, HM Treasury and the British Business Bank to create the £450million Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, and we have been working closely with York, North Yorkshire & East Riding LEP on skills issues. The four Yorkshire LEP chairs meet regularly along with our North East counterparts, and I am pleased that Roger Marsh has taken on the chair of the new Northern Powerhouse grouping.
So what needs to happen next?
Government has reaffirmed its backing for LEPs, plans to give us more influence – there is a new Council of LEP Chairs with the Prime Minister – and more resources in the future. That is to be welcomed.
The Prime Minister also wants us to improve the diversity of our boards, and I fully endorse that.
Crucial for the Humber will be the development of our Industrial Strategy, and I hope that as soon as the LEP geography is settled we will be able to move quickly on with that with Government. There are a lot of creative ideas and exciting projects coming forward from our discussions with businesses, and I have already relayed some of these ministers who are supportive.
With our strengths in energy, energy-intensive industries, ports, engineering and assembly, we have a strong industrial base that is of national importance and has a lot of opportunities for the future.
The Humber is the ideal place to take forward an ambitious industrial strategy, and I am sure that with the strong partnership we have here we will be well-placed to deliver on that.