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The Humber Local Enterprise Partnership has begun to set out its plans for the next few months after winning £177,000 of funding from the Government.

The Humber LEP was one of 18 LEPs nationally to be awarded all of what it bid for through the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills LEP Startup Fund.

The £5m fund was made available for LEPs to use towards their startup and initial running costs, such as office rental, staff salaries and marketing.  In order to bid, LEPs had to demonstrate local partners were also contributing and the LEP would be sustainable after the end of March 2012 – when the Government funding has to be spent by.  The Humber LEP’s bid was made possible after 16 local businesses, Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce, Humber Chemical Focus, the four Humber councils and the University of Hull each pledged £2,500 to get the LEP up and running.  The level of support pledged from the private sector, which was gathered in less than a week after the LEP’s first Board meeting in June, is thought to be amongst the highest in the country.

While the LEP’s first weeks were focused on making the crucial bid for an Enterprise Zone, which would help it to deliver on its top priority of creating a renewable energy super cluster in the Humber, and putting its structures in place, the funding will now allow the LEP to move forward with its other plans.

One of the LEP’s major pieces of work will be on how to market the Humber as a location for business, with the aims of helping local companies do more business outside the area and overseas, and attract more investors into the area.  The work will include a study of how competitor ports complexes market themselves, development of the Humber brand and new marketing activity.

The LEP will also be focusing on skills issues through a new Employment and Skills Board, which will bring local training providers and employers together to discuss how to improve skills levels in the area to meet businesses’ needs.  In particular it will look at how to help more people access the thousands of jobs which would be created under plans for making the area a hub for renewable energy.

Other issues on the agenda include how to make the environment easier for local firms to succeed, how to improve the area’s transport infrastructure and how to support innovation and enterprise.

The LEP will use some of the funding from Government to pay for a small team of core staff, which will co-ordinate activity and the offers of in-kind support which have been pledged by partners.  The team will be led by Richard Kendall, who has been seconded from Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce where he was Head of Policy & Communications, and report to LEP Chair John Clugston.

Throughout all of this, the LEP is keen to broaden its reach within the business community and get more local business leaders involved in its work.  The LEP plans to launch a website and e-newsletter, and organise events later in the year.  Recruitment for the LEP’s permanent Board will also begin shortly.

John Clugston, Chair of the Humber LEP, said: “Our first priority was submitting the Enterprise Zone bid, which had to be in within a month of the LEP being approved.  Since then we have been putting in place the essential structures and procedures that we will need to do our job.  Now that we have a small budget we can get the startup phase out of the way quickly and get on with putting our plans into action.

“The funding from BIS was secured because of the financial contributions being made by local partners, who are determined to make our area succeed.  The councils and the Chamber of Commerce are contributing a huge amount of staff time as well.  All of the LEP’s supporters deserve a lot of credit for stepping up to the plate – we wouldn’t be able to do this without them.

“Compared to organisations like Yorkshire Forward that have gone before us our budget is tiny, and the money from Government runs out in March.  After that we are on our own.  That won’t deter us, but it will inevitably constrain what we can do and how quickly we can do it.  We will only have a handful of staff and no money to hand out.  It will be very different to the old days, but creativity and commitment matter more.  Most of the time we will be bringing people together to work more effectively, rather than trying to do everything ourselves.  Everyone I speak to is up for the challenge and determined to make this work.  It is up to us now to harness that, join up with all the people who are willing to contribute ideas, time or resources, and get on with the job.”