Opportunities for Worcestershire to showcase itself continue to arrive with none greater than the recent visit of Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to Worcester as part of their Diamond Jubilee Tour. What a splendid occasion that was on July 11th and the crowds turned out in their masses to greet the Royal Couple. Even the weather was kind that day with only a brief shower as Her Majesty formally opened The Hive, the City’s magnificent new library, and then went on to The Guildhall for a formal luncheon with county leaders from many walks of life.
Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England
About 100 invited business leaders were fascinated by the Governor’s talk on the overall world financial crisis at a breakfast meeting at Sixways on July 10th. Sir Mervyn was visiting the county’s businesses as part of the Bank’s Monetary Committee’s commitment to regularly communicate with leaders around the country in order to appreciate at first hand the real problems facing companies and the potential for easing such difficulties and frustrations. Certainly Sir Mervyn’s ability to recap the financial history of recent years, the difficulties created, solutions put in place (or not) by various countries to date, and those still needed or proposed, in simple everyday language, was greatly appreciated by his audience and prompted many questions and constructive suggestions.
The Lord Heseltine Review
Organised through the national LEP Network, LEP Chairs from all over England gathered in Birmingham’s Council House on 12th July to contribute to the independent Review being carried out by Lord Heseltine on behalf of the Chancellor and the Business Secretary into how spending Departments and other relevant public sector bodies interact with the private sector, and to assess their capacity to deliver pro-growth policies. There was however a fairly universal reaction from the LEP Chairs that the questions that Lord Heseltine was asking were unclear and a fear that he may not have been hearing the messages being conveyed by LEPs and could therefore report that he had consulted but in fact continue to set out his own pre-conceived views. In order to balance the process the LEP Network are seeking further discussions and preparing a written response. We are contributing to that response.
Corporate Governance Review and Business Plan
The review and establishment of the LEP’s corporate governance guidelines is now virtually complete and subject to a few minor amendments was endorsed at the LEP Board on 18th July. The Business Plan outline has now been drafted and presented to the local authority Leaders Board on 9th July and to the LEP Board on 18th July. Drafting of the final Plan has commenced and will be presented in full at further meetings of both Boards in September. Subject to sign off then, we hope to make a public presentation at a mid year conference to be arranged in October.
LEP Board Meeting
The foregoing formed the key items on the Board’s agenda but in addition it was reported that agreement had been reached for further local authority funding for the LEP in the year ahead. This is much appreciated and essential if we are to be able to perform effectively. It also paves the way for the LEP to advertise for new members to its Business Board and its main sub groups. It also allows us to create a more complete secretariat under Gary Woodman and for us to have the resources to tackle issues on several fronts simultaneously. It is the LEP’s ambition to reach an existence that is funded roughly equally by local and central government and by business. The Board also received reports on progress with the Growing Places Fund projects and agreed to work with Worcestershire Highways on 3 pilot studies for improving brown signage across the county. Finally we were delighted to receive an ‘outside’ review by Ian Smith from BIS.
We continue to contribute to the ‘Next Generation Plan’ being evolved through the Shenstone Group in association with the Youth Cabinet for Worcestershire. This forward looking exercise on where the county might be, and needs to be, in 25 to 30 years time is very informative and complementary to the work we are doing in setting goals for the next 3, 5 and 10 years.
Community Infrastructure Levy
The first countywide workshop on this proposal was held at Wychavon’s Civic Centre, Pershore on 18th July and it generated wide discussion. There is clearly much water to flow under this particular bridge and various planning authorities will take their own different views. There is however a will expressed that the authorities across Worcestershire should seek common goals and policies wherever possible. The LEP will work with those authorities as required, but in a time when we are busily seeking to remove barriers to growth, we will be trying to ensure that new barriers are not created by councils seeking such high revenues that they ‘kill the goose…’.
Future Events and dates
Friday 27th July Chair meeting with Sajid Javid MP, Bromsgrove
Thursday 9th August Review meeting with Members/CEO Malvern Hills DC
Friday 10th August Redditch Business Leaders meeting, Redditch
Tuesday 4th Sept Place shaping Group, tba
Wednesday 5th Sept LEP Business Board, tba
Monday 10th Sept Leaders Board, County Hall
Wednesday 12th Sept Worcestershire Jobs Fair, Guildhall, Worcester
Tuesday 18th Sept National LEP Network Dinner, London tba
Wednesday 19th Sept LEP Network Summit, London tba
Thursday 20th Sept LEP Board, Worcester
Friday 21st Sept West Midlands LEP Chairs meeting, Baskerville House, Birmingham