What a great week it has been for Worcestershire! On Tuesday HRH The Duke of York visited a number of businesses across the county, including Thomas Vale at Stourport. On Wednesday we celebrated ‘Worcestershire Day’ at the House of Commons (see below), on Thursday Eric Pickles MP was with us to make a start on the Enterprise Park at Kidderminster (also below) and on Friday I had the honour, alongside many far more distinguished guests, of signing the Armed Forces Covenant on behalf of the LEP at a ceremony in County Hall. Now on Sunday 1st July the Olympic Torch has made its return to Worcestershire, travelling through Redditch and the north of the county before reaching Evesham and Broadway, and to cap it all Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh will be with us in Worcester, ‘The Faithful City’, on 11th July as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
All that helps raise our profile and our attraction to inward investors, particularly from overseas. Perhaps the county is coming out of hiding at last – let’s keep it going.
LEP Board and Business Board Meetings – 14th June
Held at Worcester Bosch headquarters, the main items for the Boards related to Corporate Governance and to the Business Plan. The former had been drafted for comment in order to clearly define the purpose and duties of our constituent parts and those involved, and following a number of further contributions, will be presented to the local authorities’ Leaders Board on July 9th and then hopefully for final approval by the LEP Board at its meeting on 18th July. Similarly with the Business Plan, an outline draft was presented to the Boards by our Executive Director, Gary Woodman, and his assistant, Claire Bridges. Further work has followed and a similar process and timetable is envisaged.
Worcestershire Day at the House of Commons
Organised and hosted by our county MPs, with a little help from others, this unique event took place from 12 noon until late afternoon in the Jubilee Room which is off the magnificent St Stephen’s Hall in the Palace of Westminster. Some 15 or so, largely food and drink related, businesses set up stall and showed off their fine foods, together with our tourism offer highlighted by Destination Worcestershire and others. The event attracted a steady stream of nearly 50 MPs from all over the country, together with numerous parliamentary researchers who obviously needed to research the free samples. We were particularly delighted to receive the Chancellor, George Osborne MP, who must have spent 45 minutes with us, and Environment Secretary, Caroline Spellman MP who stayed likewise. Worcestershire certainly made its mark.
Visit of Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government
Organised by Wyre Forest District Council and ReWyre and led by Cllr. John Campion, Thursday 28th June will not only be remembered in Kidderminster for torrential rain and flooding, but for a notable visit by the Minister to witness the start of clearance work on the former British Sugar site ahead of the development of an extensive Enterprise Park which will cover over 200 hectares along the Stourport and Worcester Roads. This is the site that after a county wide competition, the Worcestershire LEP put forward last year as our preferred site for a Government supported Enterprise Zone. When that was unsuccessful we encouraged Wyre Forest DC to push on with the initiative using their own powers and that is what they have done. Subsequently we have worked back to back with Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP to provide loan funds through the Growing Places Fund in order to facilitate the key infrastructure to open up the site, primarily the first part of the Hoo Brook Link Road.
Eric Pickles was greeted at Bewdley Station where he was shown a model of the proposed hotel and conference centre at the West Midlands Safari Park. A short train journey to a temporary halt at the British Sugar site took the VIP party including both LEPs to a marquee (via umbrellas) where the Draft Local Development Order was handed to the Minister for his Department’s approval. We then witnessed the start of demolition at the silos before escorting Mr Pickles back to the train and from there to Kidderminster Station, from where he departed for his next engagement at the LGA Conference in Birmingham. The key point for me was the Minister’s comment that this was the first example he had witnessed of two adjacent LEPs working together across boundaries and actually achieving something tangible for the good of the economy. I gather that his similar comments made to and broadcast by BBC Hereford & Worcester Radio later that day, as too was his positive feedback on Worcestershire LEP’s achievements.
Hot off the press is news that the second round of the campaign to create 100 new apprenticeship positions within 100 days, championed by the Worcester News, has again exceeded expectations with a total of 145 companies signing up to the process and providing no less than 214 young people with placements. Together with the first round campaign last autumn, this means that nearly 500 new apprenticeship places have been created across the county. Great news for nearly 500 young people and their families and many congratulations to all concerned, particularly the Worcester News, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Apprenticeship Service, County Council and others, but we still have a mountain to climb with many young people still out of work.
Regional Growth Fund – Round 3
Bids for funding across Worcestershire have been submitted to BIS. These include Magna Automotive Interiors of Redditch (£1.1m), a WLEP Redundant Buildings Grant Scheme (£1.5m), and a Capital Equipment Fund Scheme (£1.5m), the latter two being in conjunction with the Marches LEP. In addition we were party to a West Midlands wide bid for £25m for the ‘Green Bridge’ project to support SME’s in moving towards green technologies to reduce costs.
Future Events and dates
Wednesday 4th July APPG for LEPs, EZs and local government, House of Commons
Monday 9th July Business Plan presentation to Leaders Board, County Hall
Wednesday 11th July Visit of HM The Queen to Worcester
Thursday 12th July Meeting Lord Heseltine re LEP Review, Birmingham tba
Wednesday 18th July Planned sign off of Business Plan and Corp Gov docs by Boards