There have been two big events this week, our LEP Board Meeting at Malvern Science Park on Wednesday and the LEP Meeting in London on Thursday so they will dominate this week’s bulletin.
LEP Board Meeting
Held at Malvern Science Park with a full attendance, the Board confirmed its agreement in general to the Mission, Vision, Strategy and Priorities and Members are charged with bringing those to a final conclusion together with supporting publications with all haste. The Board also agreed the principles of the communications strategy, of which these bulletins are but part, and also endorsed the Business Board’s support for the funding bid for replacing Evesham Bridge, with a plea to fully explore fast track construction processes. Finally it welcomed the Worcester News initiative of encouraging local companies to take on apprentices and applauded the fact that it had achieved 206 against its target of 100 in 100 days. We resolved to help take that initiative further.
LEP Network Inaugural Meeting
Tony Hyde and I were invited to and attended this gathering in London on Thursday 15th of Chairs and others from all 37 LEPs across the Country. We were addressed by and had opportunity to question no less than 4 Secretaries of State, Messrs Pickles, Cable, Clark (Greg) and Hammond together with key civil servants from key Ministries. It was an enlightening and extremely positive event, very useful for networking with and hearing the experiences of and ideas from the other LEP Chairs. Philip Hammond made a transport funding policy announcement about a consultation on the devolvement of capital funding, effective from 2015, and which may involve LEPs and highways authorities joining together in Local Transport Consortia. But it was Eric Pickles who put the importance of LEPs into full perspective. He made it abundantly clear that LEPs are the only show in town, there is no plan B, so we should just get on with it. There is no guide book nor the need for one. In effect LEPs have carte blanche to assume and take whatever powers and actions they deem appropriate in the interests of economic, business and community growth. “Just do it and we will back you! Don’t doubt your power. Don’t wait to ask – go faster than Government and we will catch up. The LEPs have local power and local responsibility – they should make the choices, take the decisions, create the conditions for maximizing jobs and boosting the economy. It is a unique life changing time – an exceptional time to make a real difference.” Those were just some of the quotes I can recall but you will get the flavour. We have a major challenge and we have to accelerate in order to deliver. There is much competition out there but Worcestershire has the potential to win the race for new jobs and new investment.
We received formal feedback from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on the Kidderminster EZ which was a bit like coming 4th in an Olympic final. Apparently we were very close indeed but within the three areas of ranking we were less well marked in respect to clearly defining a specific sector usage envisaged in the redevelopment. The Marches for instance defined their bid at Rotherwas, Hereford as Defence & Security related and Humber LEP defined theirs as renewable energy (wind turbines) manufacturing. Nevertheless we together with Wyre Forest DC were generally encouraged to go forward and I am delighted to report that WFDC is fully committed to doing so. At our London LEP Network meeting there was further encouragement for local authorities to create their own local enterprise zones, using the powers they already hold and the additional provisions of the Localism Bill when it becomes an Act at about year end. We heard an example of one LEP where they were successful in their Enterprise Zone bid but in addition all their second tier councils have created their own ‘mini’ EZs which they call Enterprise Parks. Thus my challenge to each of our local authorities in Worcestershire, not just Wyre Forest.
Future Events and Dates
Tuesday 20th Sept – Chair speaks at Chamber Breakfast Meeting, Redditch
Tuesday 4th Oct – LEADER funding programme Showcase Event at Severn Stoke Village Hall
Wednesday 12th Oct – All Party Parliamentary Group on W Mids Economy in House of Commons
Dates TBA – Economic development site visits in Malvern Hills, Bromsgrove and Redditch